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Twenty Solid Minutes – A Review of MAX by Karl Blau

Throughout its short but extravagant twenty minutes, it conjures up a craving, a hope that its arrival will lead to a LP that matches up in levels of enjoyment, that the next release will be a junction from Max.

Karl Blau’s recent frontier into the realms of sound is entitled Max-Presented by K Records- and is his first major release since his 2009 LP Zebra. I purchased my copy of Max (recently silk screened in Blau DIY fashion) at a live show during the 2011 southeastern tour with Little Wings and have been in awe of its masterful compositions since my record needle met the EP’s vinyl ravine.

Side A wastes no time, opening with the funk-esque instrumental For Tenniscoats: A motley of clean pianos and synthesizers riding on the back of a thick bass line that is accented, rather than controlled by, the clangor of a snare drum possessed by rim shots. In addition to an already eclectic arrangement of instrumentation on this opener, a saxophone arrives, echoing as if its bellow has bounced out from an alleyway; keeping the track alive with breathy effervescence. “For Tenniscoats” is perfect as an instrumental, introducing to the listener the main orchestration of the album, saving the flair of Blau’s voice and lyrics for the remaining three tracks.

Celebrated By Singing,” brings forth a creeping beat and what sounds like almost asthmatic puffs from the reed section of the arrangement, used percussively, summoning a jangled jazz riff on the piano that introduces Blau’s baritone lyrics, on par with that of a certain Arthur Russell: “I’ve spent too many lines of my pen wishing away time”, followed moments later by the catchy line “It’s your time….”, that, for me, stands out as the pivotal moment of this album. It is at this point, half way into the album, that the listener can notice the precise conducting of arrangements (not all in their classic sense)  so as to evoke a call for individuality within the song as the instruments trade spaces in line, each eventually making their way to the front, standing out more than they did on previous tracks; showing that each communal sound can have its own glorious moment to subtly shine within the whole, echoing a peaceable idealism stated on Blau’s website KLAPS “that we are mimicking our surroundings, just as they mimic us,” a calm patience also found on the second track by the mindfully vocal declaration stating “I’m giving myself a moment to let myself know I’m thankful for my body“.

That's my copy!

Nearly nine minutes into the album, side B rolls around with “Golden Chariot,” originally released as a Dub Narcotic seven inch- a song mirroring the ambience of late night dancing. One facile placement of the vocal hook “I’ve got to know where you stand”- sung by the Dub Narcosisters-  and Golden Chariot, a song laced with the reverb saturated plucks of guitar notes becomes instantly memorable. At this point, it is realized this is a solid fifteen minutes of music that has no way of falling short as it carries over into the last track “A Melody To Wake Us In The Morning;” a pleasing exchange of saxophone and palm muted guitar with the closing lyrics “It will be no use standing up against the future raising a fist at the unrisen sun”.

Max exceeds what many EP’s set out to accomplish. Throughout its short but extravagant twenty minutes, it conjures up a craving, a hope that its arrival will lead to a LP that matches up in levels of enjoyment, that the next release will be a junction from Max. But this record goes further and does one better than that. These conversing and complimentary tempos counterbalanced by an arrangement of thoughtful words and orchestrations are in fact seraphs, shining light on the artists abilities to transcend from one state of artistic endeavor into another without losing his gift; all in which sparks an interest in the listener beckoned to investigate a deep catalog, wondering “What else has Karl Blau done?” and “What else can Karl Blau do?”

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