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Sketches from the Other Side, for A.I. by Herb Robertson and the Space Cadets

This album was recorded in a single, nearly hour-long session of almost consistent improvisation. Even without considering how mentally, physically and emotionally taxing that would be, this album is incredibly vivacious and intuitive.

All ten compositions were written by band-leader Herb Robertson, divided into two suites: "Sketches from the Other Side, for A.I." and the "Etiology" suite. Many of the songs in the first suite are based on blues, without playing them in the traditional form. There is some plunger work on "Blues for A.I." which fits well, especially with the alto playing a counterpoint melody and the mellow baritone line. Other selections are based more on the use of the Frank Gratkowski’s clarinet, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet to create aboriginal-like sounds, evoking a sense of primal heritage. "Strolling through Darkness" epitomizes this with its rhythmic chants. The low end of all three instruments is used, giving a sense of coming down to the solidity of Earth.

The "Etiology" suite is more rhythmically based and has more rhythmic interplay between the three musicians. "Road Construction Machinery" is especially based on this. It also has Robertson doing vocals at the end of the selection, which is really the build up point of the suite. After that, it becomes a constant interplay, sometimes with two playing rhythmic lines and one voicing his thoughts, sometimes it’s antagonism between the groups and other times it’s back talk between just two. The alliances shift and change, always keeping the listener on their toes. Only the tempo is constant, as the mood changes slightly with each soloists input. The suite ends with "Solid State Lifeforms", where all three dissolve the ordered rhythm that was had and blend back into the oblivion. The last thing on the track is Robertson shouting, "Solid State Lifeforms! We use you, but you need us! So stay out of our way! Keep it loose! Metronomic Bullsh**!"

While this albums is definitely very challenging and avant garde, it also is done in good humor and very satirical. The complexity of the music makes it slightly difficult to understand the first time through, but a look into the liner notes explains in more depth some of the inspirations for the music.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Herb Robertson and the Space Cadets
  • CD Title: Sketches from the Other Side, for A.I.
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Ruby Flower Records
  • Rating: Three Stars
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