UNCONSCIOUS COLLECTIVE 2XLP (7.10.14)

Track Listing

01. Pleistocene Moon - 10:02
02. Tribe Apini - 10:59
03. Requiem for Biodiversity - 6:48
04. Kotsoteka - 12:15
05. Is the Spine the Dividing Line? - 11:27
06. Methane Rising - 6:02
07. The Transformation of Matter - 12:20
08. Greedy Tongue - 8:14


Record Label: Tofu Carnage


REVIEWS

 

Viking's Choice: The Year In The Loud And The Weird

DECEMBER 30, 201410:00 AM ET

 

 

LARS GOTRICH

  "I thought I'd kick you in the pants." And so begins my fairly annual conversation with All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen about the year in metal and what I sometimes call "outer sound," a nebulous grouping of experimental music. You may may have seen — and perhaps been puzzled and/or delighted by — these types of music covered in my Viking's Choice column, and you can see more choice metal picks from 2014 right here. In 2014, Scott Walker and Sunn O)))teamed up for a sublime record that could neither be called metal or whatever it is that Walker does, a Thai psych band discovered on YouTube made one of the most transcendent records of the year and three dudes in body paint channeled King Crimson by way of Black Flag. Oh, it also happened to be a helluva year for punk, as evidenced in my picks for NPR Music's favorite songs of 2014. If your favorite bands include King Crimson, Last Exit and weirdo-era Black Flag, stop whatever it is you're doing and click play on Pleistoscene Moon. From the doomy noir-jazz that opens the double record to the balls-out "Kotsoteka" to the funky Tony Williams-inspired backbeat of "Is the Spine the Dividing Line," Unconscious Collective's ritualistic jazz-rock wanders a lost highway full of sharp turns and unknown spirits. http://www.npr.org/blogs/allsongs/2014/12/30/372464489/vikings-choice-the-year-in-the-loud-and-the-weird   THIS IS IT—THE SINGLE MOST BEAUTIFUL VINYL RECORD I’VE EVER LAID EYES ON      

 

"I thought I'd kick you in the pants."

And so begins my fairly annual conversation with All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen about the year in metal and what I sometimes call "outer sound," a nebulous grouping of experimental music. You may may have seen — and perhaps been puzzled and/or delighted by — these types of music covered in my Viking's Choice column, and you can see more choice metal picks from 2014 right here.

In 2014, Scott Walker and Sunn O)))teamed up for a sublime record that could neither be called metal or whatever it is that Walker does, a Thai psych band discovered on YouTube made one of the most transcendent records of the year and three dudes in body paint channeled King Crimson by way of Black Flag. Oh, it also happened to be a helluva year for punk, as evidenced in my picks for NPR Music's favorite songs of 2014.

If your favorite bands include King Crimson, Last Exit and weirdo-era Black Flag, stop whatever it is you're doing and click play on Pleistoscene Moon. From the doomy noir-jazz that opens the double record to the balls-out "Kotsoteka" to the funky Tony Williams-inspired backbeat of "Is the Spine the Dividing Line," Unconscious Collective's ritualistic jazz-rock wanders a lost highway full of sharp turns and unknown spirits.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/allsongs/2014/12/30/372464489/vikings-choice-the-year-in-the-loud-and-the-weird

 

THIS IS IT—THE SINGLE MOST BEAUTIFUL VINYL RECORD I’VE EVER LAID EYES ON

 

 

 

Since the advent of digital B2B and streaming, the promotional records and CDs that labels used to send to music writers like junk mail are now mostly a thing of the past. This bums me out somewhat. Digital is fine, I like hearing new music irrespective of the “container” it comes in, but not only am I an incorrigible vinyl hoarder (and don’t get me started on the whole uncomfortable commodity-fetish aspect of that hobby, believe me, I KNOW IT), getting surprise records in the mail is just a lot of fun. So when, unbidden, I got a vinyl copy of Unconscious Collective’s epic 2xLP Pleistocene Moon in the mail, it was a nice surprise, and it felt pleasantly like a throwback. Then I opened it to behold the most beautiful records I’ve ever seen. I’m not even slightly exaggerating. If what follows seems uncomfortably like a record-boy travesty of the business card passage from American Psycho so be it: each record is a lush, opulent vortex of a dense, eggshell cream and a raw, subterranean gold. They feel satisfyingly hefty in the hand, the 180-gram thickness of the media imparting further depth to colors that seem, almost magically, to alight and shimmer just beneath the grooves. It is stunning and elegant. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of great-looking records. This is the best. The glamor shots provided by the label and pressing plant don’t even come close to doing justice to these slabs, so I had a try at shooting some record-porn with my own DSLR. I think I got a lot closer, but this still ain’t quite there; alas, only reality is reality.

Since the advent of digital B2B and streaming, the promotional records and CDs that labels used to send to music writers like junk mail are now mostly a thing of the past. This bums me out somewhat. Digital is fine, I like hearing new music irrespective of the “container” it comes in, but not only am I an incorrigible vinyl hoarder (and don’t get me started on the whole uncomfortable commodity-fetish aspect of that hobby, believe me, I KNOW IT), getting surprise records in the mail is just a lot of fun.

So when, unbidden, I got a vinyl copy of Unconscious Collective’s epic 2xLP Pleistocene Moon in the mail, it was a nice surprise, and it felt pleasantly like a throwback. Then I opened it to behold the most beautiful records I’ve ever seen. I’m not even slightly exaggerating. If what follows seems uncomfortably like a record-boy travesty of the business card passage from American Psycho so be it: each record is a lush, opulent vortex of a dense, eggshell cream and a raw, subterranean gold. They feel satisfyingly hefty in the hand, the 180-gram thickness of the media imparting further depth to colors that seem, almost magically, to alight and shimmer just beneath the grooves. It is stunning and elegant. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of great-looking records. This is the best. The glamor shots provided by the label and pressing plant don’t even come close to doing justice to these slabs, so I had a try at shooting some record-porn with my own DSLR. I think I got a lot closer, but this still ain’t quite there; alas, only reality is reality.

The packaging is equal to the media. Printed and foilstamped on heavyweight unbleached artboard (again with the Patrick Bateman-ing, sorry), the sleeve and inserts feature the cyanotype and tintype photography of artist Ginger Berry. Both of those processes are well older than anyone reading this, and so impart a distinctively antique look. Further, the package includes three 12x12” collodion photographs of the band’s members in their stage costumes, reprinted on linen paper. I absolutely adore it when a band goes to the trouble to make a release a proper art object, and Unconscious Collective have gone several extra miles on this one. Again, pixels fail to properly convey the depth and sheen you’d see in the real thing.

The packaging is equal to the media. Printed and foilstamped on heavyweight unbleached artboard (again with the Patrick Bateman-ing, sorry), the sleeve and inserts feature the cyanotype and tintype photography of artist Ginger Berry. Both of those processes are well older than anyone reading this, and so impart a distinctively antique look. Further, the package includes three 12x12” collodion photographs of the band’s members in their stage costumes, reprinted on linen paper. I absolutely adore it when a band goes to the trouble to make a release a proper art object, and Unconscious Collective have gone several extra miles on this one. Again, pixels fail to properly convey the depth and sheen you’d see in the real thing.

So now, at last, I’ll actually talk about the tunes: Unconscious Collective are Texan brothers Aaron and Stefan Gonzalez (bass and drums, respectively) with guitarist Gregg Prickett, and their music is a beefy and ritualistic jazz/prog/post-metal hybrid that’s full of amazing moments. Do not mistake this for mere jazz fusion. Their jazz elements are sinewy and tasteful, and contrived more to resonate emotionally than to showcase any one member’s ability to play tricky passages—though they can and do. And their rock has a goddamn spine of steel. (It’s entirely fitting that some tracks here feature the saxophone of Mike Forbes, of the equally powerful and genre-defiant Chicago jazzists Tiger Hatchery, who are one of my all-time absolute favorite bands to see live, and whose Sun Worship album is essential.) I could probably wax as rhapsodic about the music on this godmonster of an album as I have about the art, but there’s no need.

http://dangerousminds.net/comments/this_is_itthe_single_most_beautiful_vinyl_record_ive_ever_laid_eyes_on4

AMN Reviews: Unconscious Collective – Pleistocene Moon (2014; Tofu Carnage)

Unconscious Collective is a Dallas-based power trio offering slabs of hard-rock inflected jazz improvisation. The group consists of Gregg Prickett on guitar, flute, and effects, Aaron Gonzalez on bass and mellotron, and Stefan Gonzalez on drums. The latter two are brothers, and sons of underated free-jazz trumpeter Dennis GonzalezPleistocene Moon, a double album, is their second release.

 

Given the length and diversity of this recording, it is difficult to categorize or pigeon-hole. The self-titled opening track would be at home on a progressive rock album, as it begins and ends with primordial animal cries, and features mellotron throughout.  Tribe Apini follows up with a dark fusion approach, relying heavily on creative guitar work, while Requiem for Biodiversitytakes a free-jazz angle, featuring a guest saxophone player interweaving lines and howls over guitar work from Prickett that almost evokes Derek Bailey.

As one might imagine from the above description, the range of styles present on this offering is overwhelming, and leads to an overall disjoint feel. At moments, one can hear the influence of Black SabbathKing CrimsonJohn Zorn, and Art Ensemble of Chicago, just to name a few. For instance, in the second half of the album, Is the Spine the Dividing Line includes riffing bass lines, with deft fretwork in and around. The next track, Methane Rising, is more of a free-form jam session with squealing sax returning to the mix. The final track, Greedy Tongues, is a wall of guitar noise and feedback, amongst tribal elements.

Thus, rather than relying on just a raw guitar power trio methodology, Unconscious Collective throws in a few surprises, including the sax, as well as interludes with light chants, maracas or shakers. Additionally, the Gonzalez brothers have been playing together for so long, their rhythm section is superlatively tight and intuitive.

Ranging from six to twelve minutes, the eight tracks of Pleistocene Moon provide a brilliant example of what is possible in a modern guitar trio, with a little help from a few additional instruments.  Not exactly retro, but with an eye on taking the heavy rock of the 70s in new directions, Unconscious Collective have a winner on their hands.


BY FRED MILLS

Everything about this atavistic outfit—the moniker, album title and label name; the splatter/explosion colored vinyl of the two LPs; the ritualistic portraits of the three members making them look like some hirsute jungle tribe in full warpaint; and of course the skronky, jazzy, punk-improv music they emit—suggests violence and upheaval, a journey upstream into the heart of darkness. Not for nothing did filmmakers Ginger Berry and Fabian Aguirre title a documentary about the band Raw Material: the Unconscious Collective is the sound of an open, oozing wound.

It’s a good hurt, though. This notion is in full evidence on numbers like the blistering “Methane Rising,” in which a guest sax player joins guitarist Gregg Prickett and the Stefan-Aaron Gonzalez rhythm section (drums and bass, respectively) for a Zorn-esque free-for-all, and the pounding Prog-jazz blowout titled, appropriately enough, “The Transformation of Matter” (the group has been compared to Mahavishnu Orchestra and King Crimson, and rightly so).

Yet there’s still something strangely calming at the core of Pleistocene Moon. Early on, in the track “Tribe Apart,” a frenetic segment gradually gives way to elegant fretboard frissons and, ultimately, a gentle bass-led denouement. Later, in the lengthy “Kotsoteka” we hear the trio settle into a pulsing groove that, while “heavy” in the sense of volume, is so expertly devised from a dynamics point of view that it has a droning hypnotic effect upon the listener. These guys know how to read the star charts as they kick into interstellar overdrive.

Shifting gears at will and turning on the proverbial dime, Unconscious Collective makes their chaos sound easy, pushing the listener relentlessly until he or she bleeds (or suffocates)—but don’t try this at home, kids, ‘cos most municipalities have strict ordinances forbidding it! The band lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so one imagines the musicians decamping to somewhere out in the surrounding desert in order to do their sonic conjuring. Pity the poor clueless traveler who comes upon the ritual by chance some moonless night…


The avant metal/doom jazz experimental trio Unconscious Collective is back with their second full-length, the impossibly retro-progressive PLEISTOCENE MOON, putting the best parts of Sun Ra, the Mothers, Mile Davis, Crawling Chaos and Captain Beefheart in a bag, shaking them up and dumping them out onto two slabs of 12 inch vinyl (wax, actually, but… you know what I’m talking about) that are uniquely their own. This is some seriously brain-damaged stuff! I like it… I like it a lot!

The first three minutes of the title track is camper’s nightmare, with various animal and… uh… other noises (I’m thinking RACE WITH THE DEVIL… look it up). It leads into an even creepier Gothic fever dream, featuring ominous bass and drum parts (courtesy of Aaron Gonzalez and Stefan Gonzalez, respectively), a scratchy, atmospheric guitar (provided by Gregg Prickett) and other deeply disturbing noises and effects. Simply stated, “Pleistocene Moon” is the soundtrack to the scariest horror movie never made. “Tribe Apini” is fueled by a deep, sonorous bass, some jazzy drumwork and some avant guitar noodling with subtle flamenco undertones. Frank Zappa woulda been proud! There’s a jazzy vibe to “Requiem For Biodiversity.” The first section is a plaintive, emotive tenor sax thing by Mike Forbes. Aaron chimes in with a great bass line and a cool bowed acoustic bass (like a cello, no?) part. The track is very much in the free-form jazz vein that eventually turns into manic Motorhead Sherwood skronks. Prickett’s feedback and echo drenched guitar during the first 150 seconds of “Kotsoteka” comes off like soundtrack music for a spaghetti western starring face-eating demons. From that point, it’s a fairly straight forward rocker with a light jazz glaze.

Is the Spine the Dividing Line?” has an odd, but appealing jazz time signature, with requisite great work from the rhythm section and minimally intrusive guitar and horn noodling to carry the melody, which is quite reminiscent of Flesh Eaters’ magnificent “Satan’s Stomp.” The final few minutes turn rather ominous, reiterating the haunted forebodingof the first half of the record. A squalling stun guitar and solid bass/sax interplay informs “Methane Rising,” the shortest track on the album. The track is a wicked, violent improv of noise and an unlikely groove that slowly falls apart in a deconstructive heap with Aaron plucking single notes to the fade. “The Transformation of Matter” is an almost normal sounding jazz tune with plenty of soloing and adventurous swerves and bumps along the way. The final track, “Greedy Tongue” is a percussion piece – not a drum solo – with Stefan incorporating a coil spring and other, more standard percussive instruments and running through a lender for an other-worldly sound. Guitar and bass scratch and claw just below the surface as the disembodied voices from the first tune reappear, adding to the luncay. With the track clocking in at over eight minutes, you may think that it will get really stale fairly quickly; far from it, Stefan ingages from the get-go and keeps it interesting ’til the end. The same can be said for the whole record, as five of the tracks come in at ten minutes or more. If you miss the adventurous improvisational aspects of yesterday’s musical innovators, PLEISTOCENE MOON should put that shiver back in your spine.The album is available in a downlaodable form or as a two record set from tofucarnage.com.

-ZACHARY MULE


Record Review: Unconscious Collective - Pleistocene Moon

Posted by: Necci – Aug 28, 2014

Even the most devoted fans of free jazz would likely agree that, at this point in time, an artist's output bearing that particular genre tag can be cause for some trepidation, especially when it's some cross-pollination with another style. Too often artists – and I refer more to fringe rock groups of varying stripes than anybody else – mistake the dissonance of Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, and Sun Ra for something easy to replicate, not recognizing that, though making noise may be easy, crafting work that approaches the spiritual and emotional resonance of the genre's originators is much more difficult.

 

So to read descriptions of Dallas-based trio Unconscious Collective that incorporate the dreaded free jazz tag (to say nothing of “ritualistic,” another term beaten nearly to death by legions of bands who think that some candles on stage or deer skulls on the merch table are at all equivalent to any sort of meaningful ceremony) might be cause for hesitation. However, the band's output justifies putting aside concerns. The group's second release sees them incorporate elements of free jazz and heavier rock music in such equal measure that neither seems like a half-baked window dressing for the other. The jazz elements are sparse and pensive, the rock elements fiery and tightly-wound. Neither overwhelms the other, nor gives in to the sort of self-indulgence that often characterize jazz-rock mixtures.

While the album's comparitively heavier moments convey the idea that Unconscious Collective possess compositional chops as well as improvisational ability, the more subdued and abstract passages convey the pensive, mysterious qualities the band seems to be attempting to impart upon their music. This isn't to suggest that the quasi-prog workouts are at all out of place, only that the more starkly contrasting passages push the totality of the music into stranger, more unsettling territory than it might otherwise have gone.

On the whole, any recommendation for checking out this album can't come without the caveat that, though it's well-conceived and executed, sidestepping so many pitfalls that would sabotage a lesser band, the content would hardly be something that most listeners would enjoy. Only occasionally paying lip service to conventional ideas of rhythm, tonality, and structure (with even the brief manifestations of each still appearing in an off-kilter, disorienting fashion), Unconscious Collective prove themselves able to draw artfully from distinct points on music's extreme fringes. On Pleistocene Moon, the band combines each element of inspiration into something keenly aware of what made their predecessors great, without attempting to create some sort of half-hearted replica.

By Graham Scala


Unconscious Collective Played a Glorious Album Release Show in a Taco Shop

I never thought I'd see a jazz show at a taqueria, much less a great one. To be fair, Saturday's bill at Taqueria Pedritos, including Unconscious Collective, HEX CULT, Drug Mountain and Baring Teeth, boasted a wide array of experimental offerings. Free jazz, no-wave, power electronics and metal were all represented. People gathered at this taco shop to celebrate the release of jazz-fusion trio Unconscious Collective's sophomore album, Pleistocene Moon. Those who came for this reason in particular caught some extra live music for their entry fee. Those who came for other reasons found out about one of Dallas' best new records.  Walking into the event was an ear-splitting experience unto itself. The weight of sound was like having an iron blanket thrown across your back, a fitting ice-water-welcome courtesy of Drug Mountain. Unlike your typical concert, it seemed everyone in attendance was a diehard fan, friend or family member of those performing. In virtue of this, the event felt uniquely intimate. It was clear the evening wasn't about entertainment -- just, you know, a good night out -- but rather it was about music and the bonds that art engenders.  I myself came for UC. But like any show worth its salt, Saturday offered up a mean surprise: HEX CULT. Searing would be a good word for what happened, although devastating would be a much better one. Wires like spilled spaghetti, a thin column of synths, a drum machine, and a deck of pedals was all it took for this duo to lay waste to every expectation I brought with me.  In the direct lineage of Throbbing Gristle, and in the vicinity of Royal Trux's most art-damaged heroin rock, HEX CULT was all texture. Violent, overtly dramatic motions went into their electronic machinery, and pixelated vitriol spewed out. The guitarist, who didn't so much play his instrument as assault it, was especially fantastic. His jerky, abbreviated style brought to mind Cecil Taylor's piano play, and the perverse yet sublime results weren't too far off the mark either. Roughly an hour later, Unconscious Collective took the stage. The trio, consisting of Aaron Gonzalez on bass, Stefan Gonzalez on drums and Gregg Prickett on electric guitar, opened with the title track from their new LP, "Pleistocene Moon". It was pure déjà vu. As with nearly every song in their set, the track was remarkably similar to the version that can be heard on record. All too often, live renditions are little more than shells of their recorded counterparts, but not with UC, and certainly not tonight in this taco shop. It's a telling feature too, because it speaks to the quality of musicianship at play in this trio. In the tradition of the best jazz groups, UC's sound is rooted in chemistry, chops and practice, not post-production sleight-of-hand or engineering trickery. In fact, there's a certain unmistakable energy exclusive to UC live that no recording could ever capture. Conversely, Pleistocene Moon achieves a level of detail that would be all but impossible to reach live, a sonic depth that, thankfully accentuates rather than modifies the group's aesthetic. Incendiary yet subtle, abstract yet melodic, the record is sure to be considered for greatest local album of the year, if it hasn't staked out that claim already. In honor of Ronald Shannon Jackson (with whom UC shares many close ties) the trio, joined by a violist, closed Saturday's celebrations with an ode to their fallen friend and mentor: an original RSJ composition entitled "People We Love." These final moments were as somber as they were triumphantly hopeful, a heartfelt reminder of music's capacity for healing and empathy. The rhythms were as firm as ever, the percussion was as intentional as it had been all evening and Prickett, visibly lost to the memories swimming in his head, played with a newfound sense of beauty, elegant but impassioned.  Following an impressive exhibition of viola fingering, the event came to a close. The performers then reminded the audience of why they came ("our new LP can be bought at the merch table"), but they had already reminded us of why we all love music in the first place. By Jonathan Patrick Tue., Aug. 19 2014 at 8:10 AM

I never thought I'd see a jazz show at a taqueria, much less a great one. To be fair, Saturday's bill at Taqueria Pedritos, including Unconscious Collective, HEX CULT, Drug Mountain and Baring Teeth, boasted a wide array of experimental offerings. Free jazz, no-wave, power electronics and metal were all represented. People gathered at this taco shop to celebrate the release of jazz-fusion trio Unconscious Collective's sophomore album, Pleistocene Moon. Those who came for this reason in particular caught some extra live music for their entry fee. Those who came for other reasons found out about one of Dallas' best new records. 

Walking into the event was an ear-splitting experience unto itself. The weight of sound was like having an iron blanket thrown across your back, a fitting ice-water-welcome courtesy of Drug Mountain. Unlike your typical concert, it seemed everyone in attendance was a diehard fan, friend or family member of those performing. In virtue of this, the event felt uniquely intimate. It was clear the evening wasn't about entertainment -- just, you know, a good night out -- but rather it was about music and the bonds that art engenders. 

I myself came for UC. But like any show worth its salt, Saturday offered up a mean surprise: HEX CULT. Searing would be a good word for what happened, although devastating would be a much better one. Wires like spilled spaghetti, a thin column of synths, a drum machine, and a deck of pedals was all it took for this duo to lay waste to every expectation I brought with me. 

In the direct lineage of Throbbing Gristle, and in the vicinity of Royal Trux's most art-damaged heroin rock, HEX CULT was all texture. Violent, overtly dramatic motions went into their electronic machinery, and pixelated vitriol spewed out. The guitarist, who didn't so much play his instrument as assault it, was especially fantastic. His jerky, abbreviated style brought to mind Cecil Taylor's piano play, and the perverse yet sublime results weren't too far off the mark either.

Roughly an hour later, Unconscious Collective took the stage. The trio, consisting of Aaron Gonzalez on bass, Stefan Gonzalez on drums and Gregg Prickett on electric guitar, opened with the title track from their new LP, "Pleistocene Moon". It was pure déjà vu. As with nearly every song in their set, the track was remarkably similar to the version that can be heard on record.

All too often, live renditions are little more than shells of their recorded counterparts, but not with UC, and certainly not tonight in this taco shop. It's a telling feature too, because it speaks to the quality of musicianship at play in this trio. In the tradition of the best jazz groups, UC's sound is rooted in chemistry, chops and practice, not post-production sleight-of-hand or engineering trickery.

In fact, there's a certain unmistakable energy exclusive to UC live that no recording could ever capture. Conversely, Pleistocene Moon achieves a level of detail that would be all but impossible to reach live, a sonic depth that, thankfully accentuates rather than modifies the group's aesthetic. Incendiary yet subtle, abstract yet melodic, the record is sure to be considered for greatest local album of the year, if it hasn't staked out that claim already.

In honor of Ronald Shannon Jackson (with whom UC shares many close ties) the trio, joined by a violist, closed Saturday's celebrations with an ode to their fallen friend and mentor: an original RSJ composition entitled "People We Love." These final moments were as somber as they were triumphantly hopeful, a heartfelt reminder of music's capacity for healing and empathy. The rhythms were as firm as ever, the percussion was as intentional as it had been all evening and Prickett, visibly lost to the memories swimming in his head, played with a newfound sense of beauty, elegant but impassioned. 

Following an impressive exhibition of viola fingering, the event came to a close. The performers then reminded the audience of why they came ("our new LP can be bought at the merch table"), but they had already reminded us of why we all love music in the first place.

By Jonathan Patrick Tue., Aug. 19 2014 at 8:10 AM


A Beast Is Born: The Deranged Jazz Doom of Unconscious Collective

By Ken Shimamoto | 10/16/14 11:30am

 

For those enamored of the romance of the artifact, the packaging for Unconscious Collective’s new double LP, Pleistocene Moon—the jazz-rock trio’s second lengthy opus for Dallas-based indie Tofu Carnage—is striking enough to be worth the price of admission all by itself. Artist Ginger Berry’s cyanotypes, tintypes, and photographs are dark, moody, and highly evocative. Their inclusion underscores the tactile immediacy of Unconscious Collective’s music, which is rich in sonic detail and rooted in the spontaneous communication between players.

The record opens with the sound of wolves howling; Unconscious Collective guitarist Gregg Prickett lives with three of them. And that’s not the only unusual thing about the band. Besides Mr. Prickett, the band—which last visited New York in 2012 for a well-received show at the metal venue St. Vitus—also includes bassist Aaron Gonzalez and his brother, drummer-vibraphonist Stefan Gonzalez. The three musicians appear onstage in tribal ritual costuming, including face and body paint, which recalls the

Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Native America, psychedelic culture, or black metal, depending on your perspective.

The band’s costuming “wasn’t originally part of some grand plan,” said Aaron Gonzalez. “We wanted to add a celebratory visual aspect to make our shows a happening.” But then, he said, the presentation took on a life of its own. “When we perform, we want to get into a zone that’s more intense and involving than everyday communication. Dressing as we do [onstage] helps us to reorient ourselves to make the moment magical. Even before we touch our instruments, we’re thinking about the art we’re going to create.”

Aaron and Stefan grew up in Oak Cliff—the storied district of Dallas where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested, now a resurgent arts mecca—in an environment that nurtured creativity. Their father, Dennis Gonzalez, is a modern-day Renaissance man: trumpeter-composer, visual artist, writer and educator. The Gonzalez family was frequently visited by his collaborators like AACM alumni Alvin Fielder, Malachi Favors, and Don Moye, and also played host to all-ages punk shows after the brothers, while in their early teens, formed their still-active thrash metal duo, Akkolyte.

 

In 2001, the Gonzalez brothers coaxed their father out of musical retirement to play with them in a free jazz trio, Yells at Eels, which has toured the world and made numerous recordings. They have also played together in Portuguese guitarist Luis Lopes’ Humanization Quartet. Aaron is a regular participant in the North Texas experimental music scene. Stefan has a solo grindcore/performance art project, Orgullo Primitivo, and recently returned from a tour of Europe as a member of bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten’s fiery Chicago-Texas free jazz/hip-hop unit, the Young Mothers. Aaron’s deep sound on bowed or plucked upright recalls Charlie Haden, and his pizzicato fluency translates well to the electric bass. Stefan does much more than groove and swing with whirlwind intensity; indeed, he can match a melodic soloist phrase for phrase on the traps.

Unconscious Collective began a decade ago as a home recording project of Stefan’s, which included other musicians but ultimately stabilized with the core unit of the Gonzalez brothers and Mr. Prickett, an Oak Cliff neighbor before moving to Chicago for five years. Since returning to Dallas in 2007, the guitarist has also played jazz in his own Mingus-influenced band, Monks of Saturnalia; garage rock in North Texas underground mainstay Wanz Dover’s Black Dotz; and black metal in Dead to a Dying World, the band led by Tofu Carnage impresario Sean Mehl. (Stefan Gonzalez is a former member.) Mr. Prickett’s guitar style combines a dark, warm tone with classical facility, aleatoric adventurism, and seamlessly integrated electronic effects.

The trio has several connections with legendary Fort Worth drummer-composer-bandleader Ronald Shannon Jackson. Stefan Gonzalez studied informally with Mr. Jackson after looking up his number and introducing himself by phone. Mr. Prickett was a member of the final incarnation of Mr. Jackson’s band, the Decoding Society, which played the drummer’s last live concert in 2012. Both men performed at Mr. Jackson’s memorial service in Fort Worth last year. Ex-Decoding Society violinist Leonard Hayward occasionally joins Unconscious Collective on hometown dates, and the band has included Mr. Jackson’s composition “People We Love” in its live set.

“We’ve developed a bleaker vision of the world..." 

Released in 2012, the debut album, Unconscious Collective, was a desperation move of sorts. “We went into the studio with three songs written, and improvised the rest,” Stefan Gonzalez said. “We had been on semi-hiatus and weren’t gelling, but having the pressure on us worked to our advantage.” Since then, he said, “We’ve developed a bleaker vision of the world … and vicious chops.” He considers Pleistocene Moon “the ultimate artistic statement for all three of us.” And indeed, while improvisation remains the band’s forte, it’s the new album’s compositions that really shine.

Eschewing the genre-ification of music, these musical omnivores, to paraphrase Oliver Lake, want all of their metaphorical food on the same plate. Over Pleistocene Moon’s four sides, you can hear the title track’s doom metal waltz, replete with mellotron, leading into an expansive showcase for Mr. Prickett (“Tribe Apini”), in which the guitarist splatters dense clots of notes over the canvas of a relentless ostinato while the drums shadow him at every turn. Flip the record over to experience the plaintive lyricism of the ECM-ish “Requiem for Biodiversity” (featuring the soul cry of Mike Forbes’ tenor sax) giving way to the thunderous prog rock gallop of the 12-minute, through-composed “Kotsoteka,” a track that’s thematically linked to the debut album’s “Peneteka”—both were inspired by the Native American genocide.

On Pleistocene Moon’s second disc, “Is the Spine the Dividing Line” spotlights the drummer’s hyperactive subdivisions of the beat over, around, and through—but definitely not behind—his bandmates’ staccato interaction, while “Methane Rising” is a freeblow free-for-all, with Mr. Forbes adding to the mayhem. (The saxophonist, currently of Tiger Hatchery, has co-led trios with Stefan Gonzalez and Weasel Walter. He’s a powerfully passionate presence, and Pleistocene Moon’s secret weapon.) On the final side, “The Transformation of Matter” opens with a burst of elemental sound, like late Coltrane with Mr. Forbes in Pharaoh Sanders’ role, then alternates between a Venusian processional and more free-flowing expositions. “Greedy Tongue” closes the album with an aura of dark mystery, electronic noise and the sounds of scraped strings intermingling with dimly overheard voices.

 


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UNCONSCIOUS COLLECTIVE 2XLP (11.10.12)

Track Listing

01. Gemini Croquet - 8:11
02. Tranquilidad Alborotadora - 6:52
03. Cis-Lunar Cloudburst - 6:32
04. Molesting Electric Walter - 9:15
05. Pachydermis Funeralis - 14:59
06. Ink Portraits in the Key of Cephalopod - 12:23
07. Peneteka - 7:07


Record Label: Tofu Carnage


Reviews

From Invisible Oranges

"This release represents two phenomena that fascinate me: non-metal side projects from metal dudes, and self-contained pocket scenes. The label in question, Tofu Carnage, is an in-house operation. It came into existence last year as a means for the Dallas sludge/black metal band Dead To a Dying World to release their own material. (Their excellent debut is available for free streaming and download on Tofu Carnage’s Bandcamp.

Since then, Tofu Carnage has gone about releasing music by increasingly strange spinoff bands—Akkolyte, a Naked City-styled jazzgrind act featuring DTADW drummer Stefan Gonzalez, and now Unconscious Collective. “Collective” is an apt term. This band features Gonzales on drums and vibraphone, Gregg Prickett (also of DTADW) on guitar, and Aaron Gonzalez (also of Akkolyte) on bass, but has played host to countless guest musicians.

Unconscious Collective steps over the blurry metal/jazz line drawn by Akkolyte into hazy fusion territory. This material isn’t broken up into ‘songs’ as much as it’s divvied up into movements. Improvisation rules the day; the band recorded this material live, and it shows. Still, as with Last Exit or Secret Chiefs 3, metal abusiveness creeps in through unexpected portals: sinister tonalities and painful noise squalls."


 

From The Needle Drop

"Chaotic and flashy jazz fusion from the Unconscious Collective, which actually features one of my favorite things in jazz: Vibraphone. Yeah, weird thing favor in such a genre, but whatever. What’s interesting is the drums and vibraphone on this record are played by the same person! That’s a feat considering the sonic insanity that occurs on the opening track!"


 

From Dallas Observer

"The new self-titled LP from Dallas' Unconscious Collective, yet another group that counts members of Akkolyte and Black Dotz as members, gets released tonight. The seven-track album's shortest song is six-and-a-half minutes, and its longest is nearly 15, but in those swaths of time, the metal improv trio pummels and swerves 360 degrees."


 

From Sea of Tranquility

"Unconscious Collective are Gregg Prickett (Guitar ), Aaron Gonzalez (Bass guitar and Upright bass), and Stefan Gonzalez (Drums and Vibraphone), and this trio play an eclectic blend of avant-garde jazz, metal, and progressive rock on their brand new self-titled seven song CD. Though I know next to nothing about Tofu Carnage Records (based out of Dallas), they apparently specialize in the DIY, the bizarre, and the sublime, which this release fits right into that framework. It's all instrumental, at times tranquil and jazzy, and others quite chaotic and noisy. Tunes like "Cis-Lunar Bloudburst" and "Molesting Electric Walter" burst with plenty of metallic prog bombast, complete with loud riffs and scorching lead guitar like a meeting of King Crimson & The Mahavishnu Orchestra, while "Gemini Croquet" and "Tranquiladora Alborotadora" go in a lighter, jazzier direction. Some of the guitar & vibe passages on "Funerlais Pachydermis" veer off into free-jazz territory, while the haunting menace of "Ink Portraits in the Key of Cephalopod" evokes the early days of Tangerine Dream minus the keyboards. Closer "Peneteka" comes the closest to instrumental stoner metal on the album, with plenty of beefy, pulverizing riffs and pounding drums to satisfy anyone into all things heavy.

This is an intriguing listen for those with an adventurous ear. Proceed with caution if structure and melody are important to you, but should you be drawn to the avant-garde and chaotic there's a lot to like here."


 

From Don't Count On It Reviews

"This is the sort of album that comes along every once in a while that I have a tough time finding something to pair with it. Luckily, I actually had something waiting in the wings, so I was able to write this review up a lot earlier than I had originally planned. Featuring members from the likes of doom metal titans Dead to A Dying World, this group certainly did intrigue me.

I have to say that when I first played this record, I was very surprised by the degree to which these musicians performed. It's not so much that I expected the performances to be just average or passable, but the music comes across as a much more intense form of fusion that explores a lot of ground in each track. Sure, there's no denying that this is a jazz-rock record coming from guys who play various forms of metal, opener Gemini Croquet features a doomy introduction and an ending riff that wouldn't be out of place on a grindcore track. It's those certain parts that stick out and keep me interested in what's going on and make the project stick out from the dozens of other jazz-rock groups out there. It was the use of the vibraphone that perhaps brought the greatest surprises for me. Not only is it used all over the album, but when it's being integrated into the fabric of the work being done on the drum kit, it feels so powerful and captivating. I also thought that the band did a pretty consist job at building tension while playing, which led to several nail-biting sections that just felt like the band was going to fall off the edge and just explode into avant-garde absurdity, but that never happened (listen to it yourself to decide if that was a good or bad thing).

However, having said all of that, this record is improvisational, and on a record like this, that can often be more of a hindrance than a strength. I have no problem with improvised music, sometimes it can be very refreshing and invigorating, but more often than not, it takes just as much restraint to reign yourself in and that's something that a lot of groups just don't have a handle on. I understand it's supposed to be chaotic and off-the-hook, but it doesn't have to be uncontrolled. A track like the fifteen minute Funeralis Pachydermis is all well and good but goes on for too long to maintain interest for the entirety of its duration. It addition to that, referencing the very same track incidentally, there were several guitar runs that just made me think of the theme song to that old cartoon The Ren & Stimpy Show. That doesn't have to be a bad thing, but hearing it used repeatedly can get a little annoying. Personally, I found that when the band introduced a more rock or metal based part into the fabric of their improvisations, the result was more grabbing and made for a better listen. Some of the straight-up jazz pieces I found to be just a little on the dull side for my own tastes at certain points.

It's not a bad album, but it can grow rather tiring quickly, at least for myself. I've always said that I am no expert on jazz and recommend what I like and even though this isn't strictly speaking a jazz record, I think it can still be viewed as such in the right light. If you enjoy improvisational music or various forms of jazz rock, I think it's definitely worth looking into, but otherwise, proceed with caution."


 

From Hammer Smashed Sound

"This, the first record from a group that contains members of crust/metal band Dead to a Dying World and the grindcore duo Akkolyte, is something you must hear. The group calls itself Unconscious Collective, and once you hear the album, you'll understand why. Seamlessly melding rock and metal with free jazz, this record is really one of a kind. There have been plenty of rock and metal records that have incorporated jazz (or vice versa), but this is one of the best I've heard.  Ritual plays a significant part in how the Unconscious Collective approaches making music, as does the ability to improvise, and those facets of their sound are readily apparent in the final product.  The record veers all over the place, never quite letting the listener get into a groove or a locked rhythm of any sort, but that shouldn't turn you off, because for this record it really, really works. The album is a blur - in the best way possible. It's quite uncomfortable at times, and thus forces you to really give it your attention. Learn more about the band from the links above, and stream the album from the Tofu Carnage Bandcamp. But trust me - the double-LP, cut at 45 rpm on 180-gram vinyl, is where the shit is really at. Comes on milky-clear vinyl in a real nice heavyweight jacket, too. Highest recommendation for this album."


 

From Beard Rock

"Looking like the waiting room of a Goat audition, this Jazz/punk/noise trio from Dallas punch through the continuum with unfettered guitar, bass and percussion to access some ancient indigenous bond to the earth.

This is music to go rock pooling to. It’s music to live in a rock pool to. ‘Gemini Croquet’ is the thoughts of a hermit crab disturbed by an infant’s hand, scuttling, lashing out, vibraphone plinking and popping in annoyance and panic. Songs are built on scratchy riffs which break down into frantic improvisations before returning to more recognisable patterns. The feedback-taming exercise of ‘Cis-Lunar Cloudburst’ gets itself all worked up into mad strangulated harmonics and frenzied percussion. For all the wild experiments, this album is really approachable and earthy; you get the sense of three fellas all trying to take us to the same place in our heads. Sometimes it’s thrilling, others it’s baffling but you never feel intimidated by esoteric aloofness.

The style can quickly morph from to dissonant jazz to avant-punk to space rock. ‘Pachydermis Funeralis’ and ‘Ink Portraits in the Key of Cephalopod’ are more ambient in nature; like Can’s ‘Aumgn’, they keep you wondering just what the fuck is going on for 20-odd minutes and it never gets boring; it’s as if they’ve completely stopped trying to play and you’re hearing the vestiges of whatever strange vibrations are hanging around in the room playing them. Closer ‘Peneteka’ steadily whips up the intent again, developing into the most noisy rock thing on here, the dizzying climax of the ritual filtered through something like Albini’s harmonic percolator.

Don’t get your dad the latest Top Gear compilation for Christmas, get him the milky clear vinyl of Unconscious Collective. Rather than pushing the limit on the M6 to Kaiser Chiefs, he’ll reverse at 70 through farmland."