Junk Magic is hard to describe. It falls somewhere between composed and improvised music, live and studio artifact, art and EDM. Junk Magic began as a project by composer, keyboardist, and producer, Craig Taborn. He used the name for his 2004 release on the adventurous jazz label, Thirsty Ear. Over the intervening 15 years, Junk Magic has evolved into a group with an established group ethos. Drummer David King and violinist Matt Maneri have been with Tabor for the full ride. Bassist Erik Fratzke is a relatively new addition to the ensemble while Chris Speed is a guest on woodwind instruments.
Compass Confusion feels like a journey through someone’s dreamscape. “Laser Beaming Hearts” begins the record with ambient electronic sounds. Additional sounds enter the landscape, a few piano chords, some drumbeats, droning viola and sax. Then the beats coalesce, the keyboards pick up a melody, the bass comes in with a groove and the Laser Beaming Hearts have a target.
The instruments on Compass Confusion often feel like they are in their own space. On “Dream and Guess,” the sounds interact, but feel like they are responding to each other. It’s feels like ships drifting on a fog bound lake signaling each other so they will know where the others are.
The ten-minute piece, “The Science of Why Devils Smell Like Sulfur,” is a shifting array of textures and tempos awash in an ocean of ambient electronica. “Sunset Forever” brings the journey to a calm and satisfying conclusion. If you’re so inclined, there are a lot of interesting ideas packed into these tunes. I can imagine students at Berkley School of Music dissecting the album on an all night listening binge. Then again, if your not inclined to worry about the how and whys of the compositions, just let the sounds wash over you. Compass Confusion makes for fun listening.