AMN Reviews: Crazy Doberman – Illusory Expansion (2020; Astral Spirits)

Crazy Doberman is a curious outfit, a rotating collective of musicians that come and go for recordings and live performances.  The group is centered around Drew Davis, Tim Gick, and John Olsen of Wolf Eyes. Illusory Expansion is far from their first dance – it is more like their 20th release – and features a total of 16 musicians in a free-improvisational jam session.

There is a hint of a Bitches Brew vibe herein, but Crazy Doberman is more experimental and not overtly jazz. Other reference points might be the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Art Ensemble of Chicago, and maybe AMM, Sun Ra, or Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza. But this is not to say that Illusory Expansion is retro. Instead, it is notably modern but gives a nod to the past.

Instrumentation includes various horns, percussion, and what sounds like guitar, bass, flute, and synth among others. The horns and percussion, in particular, are used in unstructured blowouts, while the pieces focusing more on synth provide downtempo atmospheric interludes or discordant abstractions.  The density of each offering varies as more or fewer contributors are involved.

In all, Illusory Expansion is a nice chunk of sonic experimentation, and likely to appeal to anyone who is interested in the small but important “big band collective improv” genre. Cassette and download versions will be available on May 15.