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Cliff Dustin Krcatovich , December 18th, 2015 13:50

Maybe things work differently in Denmark than they do in my neck of the woods, but I'm pretty sure that Homies is not a very good name for a band. Amiable, sure, but still. It is the sort of name I'd expect from a local bar band known to cover "deep cuts" by Sublime or 311, a group whose membership consists primarily of "nice guys", one of whom is probably dating your significant other's sister (the worst, of course, because you're expected to at least pretend to feel bad about making fun of them behind their backs).

Luckily, a rose by any other name would yadda yadda yadda, and with Cliff, Homies have produced an aural spectacle worthy of more than my blabbing about their ill-chosen moniker. It is four sides of deft improv freakery that doesn't let down in the flavor department: the trio of Ned Ferm (saxophone), Jeppe Skovbakke (bass), and Rune Kielsgaard (drums) approach free improvisation with equal parts fun and ferocity, and with a forward momentum that offers rock & roll satisfaction without relying on any of that genre's exhausted tropes. It's rollicking, heavy, and plenty out there for the deep sound divers.

Kielsgaard, in particular, is the best kind of free jazz drummer. He careens always around the beat, implying instead of spelling it out. I'm reticent to compare him to kit monsters like Chris Corsano or the late, great Rashied Ali, as to do so would be sacrilegious in my church, but he's a saint if he ain't a god. At the very least, he's been reading from the right scriptures.

There's plenty more from where he came, too. Ferm is a brute-force player who favors hard-angle skree and sickening drone, yet he also lets rip with plenty of passages both lyrical and mellow; the man's no dunce, and he wrings grace out of the horn where you'd least expect it. In some sections, he also runs his blurt through a battery of electronic effects which, when working in tandem with Skovbakke's noodly distorted bass, creates a most unexpected bridge between Borbetomagus and early Weather Report.

Speaking of Skovbakke: that dude might be the trio's true secret weapon. His bass playing is, at times, some of the most abstract I've heard, and that's no mean feat. He seems to trip into another world at points here, laying hunks of distorto-gunk marble to build a staircase to the astral plane. Rarely does he make the obvious move, pulling a lot of stunts that are completely, delightfully "huh?".

The members of Homies have played together for a long time, first meeting about a decade and a half ago as early members of prog-jazz ensemble Anderskov Accident. Their chemistry is well-honed by this point, and while there's a relaxed swing to Cliff, it's no surprise that they've traveled through some tight musical corners together. This album was recorded quick and dirty, with plenty of bleed between mics, but it still sounds like something a lesser ensemble might have labored over in post-production. Their on-the-fly tweaks serve to create a sound palette which recalls vintage Gong and Guru Guru, even vintage Scratch Perry, as much as anything in the band's obvious wheelhouse, all without making a (literal) production of as much.

There are no compromises on Cliff, no concessions to any recent "revived public interest in jazz": this one is for the heads, and its sprawl and freedom will be a hard sell to just about anyone else. Still, Cliff offers plenty to satiate improv-hungry appetites, a fact that no questionable band name could ever ruin.