“Variations on ‘Estate’,” the opening track in Mumex Duo’s new record Heat the Silent, begins in a haze of melodic clouds that churn into a solid harmony by the time we hit a textured mark in the track. The music drones forward with confident ease, unraveling one note at a time until we’re met with a stream of instrumental poetry that gives us a good sampling of what lies ahead in the next six songs on the album. “When All the People Are Sleeping” kicks into gear as “Variations on ‘Estate’” dissipates into the ethers, and it immediately changes the pace to a more traditional flow of swinging beats against the backdrop of lush instrumentation that won’t calm down until we’re in the safe, comforting arms of the new wave-inspired “Thelonious.”
Lost in a wilderness of harmonies, Mumex Duo carves out a patch of normalcy for us to cling to as the bizarre beats of “Thelonious” wrap around us tightly, only to recoil inside its synthetic refrain every time the tension gets close to overwhelming us. Next to the title cut, this song isn’t all that inventive by modern jazz standards, but then again, its successor in the tracklist is one of the more stunning on all of Heat the Silent. There’s a muted assault beneath the layers of sonic mistiness, and at the right volume, you can feel the rumble of the bassline in addition to the roar of the instrumental melody behind it. This is an involved listen if I’ve ever heard one, but it isn’t repellent to casual jazz fans at all.
“Joe’s Island” tosses a dash of fusion into the mix as if it’s clearing out some space for “Thelonious” to pummel us with its throttling grooves, but a reprisal sadly doesn’t materialize. I think that to really appreciate both of these songs, you have to listen to them in the order that they were arranged by Mumex Duo, who stop just short of making a flat-out concept album in Heat the Silent. They prove that they’ve got the chops to make something a little more operatic in the future if they were to see fit, but if I were in the position that they’re currently in, I wouldn’t change a single element in the formula that they’re working with here. It’s their ultimate sound, and they wear it better than anyone else possibly could have.
With the brief swirl of “Beyond the Eight Door,” we prepare for the grand finale in Heat the Silent, the immeasurably twisted sonic symphony “Variazione Senza Fine,” which reunites us with the ghostly echo of “Variations on ‘Estate’” for one last adventure into the far reaches of the universe. After several minutes of blistering musicality, Mumex Duo’s latest album concludes, leaving only a trail of harmonies in the cold silence that follows. I’ve been listening to this band for a good minute now, and while I had a feeling that this most recent studio outing was going to be something for the ages, I was still taken aback by just how strong an effort this LP really is. It’s another smash in a string of big hits for Mumex Duo, and possibly their most charismatic work so far.
Photo Credit: Mario Coppola