This latest release of Magic Poetry Band weirdness lives up to its Beefheartian namesake and packs a beautiful collage of rich styles and head-raps laid out like a radioactive roadmap to distant lands, future horizons and times gone by. Using "investigative verse" methods and social systems pioneered by Ezra Pound, Charles Olson, Amiri Baraka and Ed Sanders, the Poetry Band breaks set and stretches out on this diverse CD in words and sound.
M. L. Liebler has brought together poet-musicians on this recent work that come together into a highly organized way but manages to really connect when they hit rarified areas of free-form jazz. Liebler’s opening grenade; In a Window/The Screamers has a Captain Beefheart Mirror-man phase-shifting glee to it, a cubist honk and funky wail that cracks into John Sinclair’s signature poem with urgency and passion. Liebler brings a hard-edged Wolf-man Jack delivery to his poems that are half sung, in a smoky soft-jazz Tom Waitsian style, but often growled and howled into life, molded formed into clay sculptures. Deliver Me is a natural Liebler standout that rocks and flows to Coltrane’s Love Supreme riff.
Liebler gives wide berth to poet cohorts Faruq Z. Bey and Ron English to great effect. These well known heavy players from Griot Galaxy and the Detroit Artists Workshop add a rich heritage to the mix, lending an immense drive and a deep atmospheric consciousness to the multi-layered perspectives on Kurl of the Butterfly’s Tongue. Ron’s arpeggio patterned guitar work and Faruq’s staccato Ayleresque blues-freak accents pave a multi-colored mosaic across the CD, an oriental musical woven with melody and tension that sets the stage and setting for a series of great inventive narrative poems.
The Blower is a great Ron English ode to the western noir using confessional style poetics, mixing the figures of Baudelaire, the Dalton gang and Michel McClure – a historic slice backward into his own past as a poet, he comments on the background of what its like to write a poem while the narrative flows in and out of time.
Faruq’s bass driving anti-capitalist head rant Work in Progress, is an indictment of the superficial and falseness of society, surrounding us like “jelly” with the refrain “and I Want to be an American” – the sound firing off rhythmic triplets as English counters the pattern with bursts of Stravinskyesque Firebird runs and fills. The Kurl of the Butterfly’s Tongue is a more oblique and kabalistic rap of artistic life and the act of composition that borders on Dante and Bukowski’s terrain: “Our poems become glowing reports from Hell/ festooned with images from the bellies of pigs.”
Faruq’s last two contributions honor the indelible legacies of Sun Ra and Albert Ayler, twin pillars in the pantheon of free music, and here the disc reaches its highest points. These are both jaw-dropping brilliant and grand testaments to an ever- lasting heritage that continues to incite and create a bedrock of mind-opening and mind-bending freedom still influencing and reverberating in sound and words. Faruq’s twin-star odes to our ancestral (and celestial) kingdoms are intensely thought out elegiac compositions that reflect and honor their subjects. The music on both works slowly rises up from a personal space into a spiritual and evolved eulogy – transformative and adaptive to the subjects they embrace. Faruq is clearly at home base here, paving a road to new territory and sites unseen.
The Kurl of the Butterfly is a fine testament to the true diversity and wonders of what can come out of Detroit. It is both history and the now (know) sound in one sweet package designed by psychedelic mainman Gary Grimshaw. Add this to your collection and file under Detroit: strange and beautiful.