Bootstrappers – Xenolith

Posted: 27 December 2021 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Klanggalerie – 5th December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

From the Greek xénos, a noun meaning “stranger, guest” or an adjective meaning “foreign, strange”, xeno has come to used as a prefix meaning “alien,” “strange,” or “guest.” Meanwhile, ‘lith’ refers to a stone (making megalith and monolith self-explanatory).

Elliott Sharp’s power trio Bootstrappers’ brand of free jazz / classic rock crossover, they say, is ‘filtered through the ethos of cyberpunk, techno, and free jazz: raging, psychedelic, and filled with fantastic extrapolations’, and since the group’s inception in 1990, they’ve undergone numerous changes in lineup, but the ethos has remained the same, meaning that this offering truly is a strange stone – one that’s hard and soft, smooth and rough, not just in different places, but in some patches, all at once. Such a stone should be geologically impossible, but then, so should the sensory explosion of the seven wildly varied and inventive compositions here, courtesy of Sharp, along with Melvin Gibbs and Don McKenzie.

If the first, ‘Telentechy’ is, at least on the surface, a fairly standard jazz-leaning rock workout, it also possesses enough detail and enough changes to render it rather more. It does seem customary for many such acts to open an album with a track that sounds like a slowly-winding down finale at the end of an hour-long live performance, and this track just does just that, but where so many similar acts lose my attention is in making every subsequent piece sound like another eight-minute winddown and seventy minutes later you’ve had nothing but a crashing, discordant conclusion and not a lot else. So while Bootstrappers do essentially begin at the end, and have numerous sprawling, somewhat formless expanses of barely-contained chaos on Xenolith, they also present numerous changes in mood and tempo, even approximating structural form in places.

‘Sieze the Mement’ is a wibbly, noodlesome piece that evokes eastern scales while also hinting at a dizzying progressive / Krautrock crossover. Immediately after, and after bouncing along for about four and a half minutes, I suddenly realise that ‘Lo Shu’ has grown quite funky in its groove… but then just as the dawning occurs, so the groove melts and dissipates into so much flickering light.

There is a lot going on, but where Bootstrappers succeeds and stand apart is their being only three: this necessitates more minimal arrangements and means they’re not prone to the spells of chaotic discoordination whereby it sounds like six people playing six different tunes in different keys and different time signatures, and instead feels altogether more focused for the most part, and as a result, they do pitch into some nice grooves that you can really get into.

According to their bio, ‘Future editions of Bootstrappers may see the group expand to orchestral dimensions’. While this may be an exciting evolution, Xenolith evidences that they’re fine just as they are right now.

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