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Sound Off!: Microkingdom


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MP3: Microkingdom – Aire Metal (Chopped and Screwed) from Spectacular Edges (2009)

I still don’t know what to make of Microkingdom’s core duo, Will Redman and Marc Miller. It seems like they’re out to do exactly what they’re doing, and sounds like what they make is on-par with their standards.

But what of the people themselves? They met in a high school cafeteria; both went on to create lives revolving around music in one way or another (Redman getting his PhD in music composition, Miller working with Oxes). Years later, both living in Baltimore, they met up and began jamming once more, a practice that eventually turned itself into what we call Microkingdom. Basically an umbrella term for the works of Redman and Miller.  I had a chance to talk to percussion guru Dr. Redman after their improv-rock set at Whartscape 2009, and strikingly enough, he appeared to be the most stable minded individual at the whole damn festival. Coming from the man whose music often moves like a swarm of angry insects, I figured he’d be a little more in the clouds. Not the case, for he was straightforward, easygoing, relaxed, all of those neutral qualities employers look for in job interviews, and then some.

After our short conversation, the compostion maestro handed me a copy of Microkingdom’s latest effort, Spectacular Edges. Now, unlike the disc’s title, it finds the free-jazzers in a softer, more deliberate place compared to the rocky landscapes of 2008’s Wrenches: My Heart/Double Abacus. Where the latter hikes chaotically through the cavernous trenches of the trio’s (including Mr. John Dierker’s) raw instrumental prowess, the former gladly gains some composure and takes some time out for production to work its magic.

The music is cushy: oversampled sax lines feel like feathers across the surface of Redman’s amoeba-like rhythms. I hesitate to bring up the word “glitch” in this post, mostly because a free-jazz-glitch genre sounds too ridiculous to be real, but hell if Microkingdom don’t give it a shot. The clipped reedwork of John Dierker gives “Squirrel Level” and “Aire Metal (Chopped And Screwed)” just the right amount of pizzaz necessary to pull off the tracks without having sounded like remix jazz. And even if you’re looking for more standard issue Microkingdom jams, the good people behind the name have even planted a taped session (by Jeff Mewbourn), entitled “Family Day Red Room,” containing some of their finest material.

The release ends on an unpredictably beautiful note: “Quring Startet.” Composed by Will Redman, this is a piece written for a simple string quartet, its electronic accompaniment adds a little spook to its already lonesome nature. Though it sits as Spectacular Edges’ odd duck out, it effortlessly characterizes the bulk of Microkingdom’s recorded catalog–and in just over a minute at that. Chasing one of their songs feels like navigating through an unfamiliar city. You can’t tell if the sounds you’re currently hearing are going to go anywhere, but you most definitely want to find out. Then, at long last, it’s all over. But you want just a little bit more.