Tony Marsh/Steve Franklin/Tim Crowther - Shell of Certainty A British trio of drums, keyboards, and guitar/guitar synth respectively, Marsh, Franklin, and Crowther have extensive resumes of jazz and improvised rock work. Shell of Certainty is their first CD together, and all tracks were improvised and recorded live with no overdubs. These improvisations are sonically and thematically chaotic and scattered, loosely in the vein of King Crimson's live improvs in 73-74. Melodic fragments are jumbled; chordal features are short and clipped. The jazz influence is most prominent sonically, but not compositionally, as the structures are more random. Marsh's drumming has a light jazz flavor with subtle cymbal work. Franklin uses crunchy analog synth sounds and clean piano, among other textures, to good effect. Crowther's guitar sounds also range widely, including a smooth fusion sound like a cross between Allan Holdsworth and Scott Henderson. The musicians interact quite well, developing improvised themes and directions that remain engaging as they build. Improvised rock is difficult to listen to, absorb, and most of all, judge, especially in a short time frame, instead requiring repeated listening and reflection. The highest compliment should be that a listener is intrigued enough to want to listen more, to invest time and work in listening and comprehending. Marsh, Franklin, and Crowther's music definitely holds this appeal, and fans of sonic experimentation in rock improvisation should definitely check out Shell of Certainty. Reviewed by Scott Andrews
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