A quartet that span decades of musical creation, Conjoint brings together a couple youngsters and a seasoned veteran for an album of electronic jazz wanderings. In the previous sentence, I refer to a single seasoned veteran, and that spot is filled by Karl Berger, who has played vibes since the 50s with the likes of Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, George Clinton and others. That said, a couple of the "youngsters" on this release are veterans in their field, with Jamie Hodge (whose first release came out on Richie Hawtin's Plus8 label back in 1994) and David Moufang (who is best known as Move D, and has released a couple clean-lined techno albums under that name). The quartet is rounded out by guitarist and sound-designer Gunter Ruit Kraus, who co-formed the group almost ten years ago with Moufang and composed a good portion of the songs on the release.
A Few Empty Chairs is actually the third release from the group, and it was recorded live (sans crowd noise). It's not stated whether the group improvised the tracks that make up the thirteen song, nearly seventy minute album. For a group whose first album was compared (by the Wire, no less) to Miles Davis' In A Silent Way, Conjoint seems to keep to a fairly standard set of construction on this release.
Opening track "Blue & White" demonstrates this basic feel pretty well, and after a short intro of electric piano, vibes and guitar, a loop of programmed beats starts and the musicians weave their instruments over the top of it. In the case of the opening track, it makes for almost nine minutes of nice-sounding, but fairly aimless ambo-jazz noodlings. "Seven Quarters" follows, and while the beat is a bit more juicy, the overall construction is largely the same, with some pinched analogue synth melodies creeping into the mix at times as well.
Such is basically the construction of the majority of the release. There are a couple places where they break from the loop-based beats and these tracks seem to shine the most. The spectral "Conjoint With Clarity" finds guitars and vibes wrapping around one another as wordless vocals and horns drift like curls of smoke around it all. The groaning, low-end heavy "Ruit Silvermoon" is another standout, with heaving filtered pieces of guitar rumbling heavy while high-end electronic bits come down like sparks from above.
On the aptly-titled "Frenetic," the beat loops are again the driving focus, but instead of shuffling through worn-out ambient beat programming, they leap to life, moving at about 120 bpm and recalling early Plus8 material mentioned above. As the track opens, the instrumentation dances around the fast rhythm, as if afraid to move so quickly, but end up jumping in alongside it in places, making for some of the more exciting music on the album. Despite a few fine moments, those seeking future-leaning jazz will probably have better luck elsewhere.