Laser Beaming Hearts
Dream and Guess
Compass Confusion / Little Love Gods
The Science of Why Devils Smell Like Sulfur
The Night Land
As part of Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series in 2004, pianist and keyboard experimenter Craig Taborn premiered a band that sounded uncannily like its name. Junk Magic, featuring a quartet, made something like avant-garde chamber jazz dance music, informed by Taborn’s wild ambient textures, unstable beats, and ultra-modern harmonic concepts. While the busy Taborn did not document the group again until Compass Confusion in 2020, he did periodic live gigs in the interim, strengthening connections with violist Mat Maneri, tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed, and drummer Dave King (of The Bad Plus) while also adding bassist Erik Fratzke (of Happy Apple).
Much like the first record, Compass Confusion opens with the alert and funky “Laser Beaming Hearts,” a jolt of energy that draws us into the disparate sounds and moods to follow, whether spooky (“The Night Land”) or grand and majestic (“Sunsets Forever”). Taborn’s soaring synth melodies blend with the dark amber of Maneri’s viola in fascinating ways on “Dream and Guess,” while “The Science of Why Devils Smell Like Sulfur” has acoustic piano at its structural core, even as glitchy electronics swirl all around. Merging composition, free improvisation, and radical sound design, Junk Magic conjures a musical world as shape-shifting and elusive as Taborn himself.