Three Channel Switch - "The Un-Real Book"
(IMCR Records 2003, imcr #003)

Uploaded to Aural Innovations: October 2003

Three Channel Switch is the improvisational trio of Bret Hart on electric guitar, balalaika, ashbory bass and howler, Bob Jordan on electric piano, electric and acoustic guitars, glissar, bells, whistles and (of course) pan o' water, and Eric Wallack on upright bass. Using the tried and true method of "play by mail" collaboration, Three Channel Switch serve up an avant-rockin set of what they describe as "100% Gut-Bucket Improvisation", which sounds very much to me like a Bret description.

The album opens with "Three Channel Switch", a lazy jazz/blues/avant-garde piece on which Wallack's bass sets the pace and jazzy groove, while Hart and Jordan meander merrily on their guitars. Avant-rock, jazz and general undefinable stylings emanate from the two guitars, combining wrenching acidic lines with noisey licks that somehow manage to retain a soundscape quality. I love the whining rising and falling notes on "See How Many Riffs", that feel like an alien tidal wave blowing through the room. An ambient backdrop creates a spacey aura while the bass once again propels the music. The guitars really start to rock, kicking out some stinging notes, and the combination of the harsh guitars, ambience and jazzy bass makes for a very cool contrast that fits together snug as a glove.

"The Story Of Jazz" is a freeform tune that mixes a number of styles against a sample of someone telling the story of jazz in America. At 14 minutes, "Teenagers" (a "The Story Of Jazz" reprise) really explores. And with this track we get deeper into avant-garde free-improv territory. We hear frantic string manipulation techniques, which is oodles of fun during what sounds like duels between Hart and Jordan. There's all manner of banging, clanging, duck calls, and other undecipherable sounds. I particularly liked the parts that come across (to my ears) like an experimental take on Carl Stallings skillfully insane cartoon soundtracks. "Mountain Scapegoat #2" is similar but spacier. The closing track, "Fifteen Square Feet" is another highlight, combining dark, sludgy metallic dirges with pulsating soundscapes and whimsical noodlings. Another interesting combination of contrasting elements.

There's a lot on the album that reminded me of a rawer jamming version of Snakefinger, and Captain Beefheart influences pop up from time to time, along with a banquet of off-kilter blues, jazz and even country and other traditional stylings, all often creatively glommed together. And there's plenty more as the kids cut loose and let the ideas run rampant. And that's really what this album is about. It's a free-wheeling flow of ideas, each offered to the other to lay his own musical thoughts over. And the results are good rocking jamming fun, with an intriguing blend of styles and sounds.

For more information you can visit the Eric Wallack web site at:
The CD is available for $8 postage page from Eric Wallack; 445 North Main St; Bowling Green, OH 43402.

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

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