I won’t pretend to understand completely what’s happening on Dimensional Stardust, but what I do know for sure is that it moves me. Pulling from abstractionism, avante garde, and otherworldly vibes, this album feels like finding something obscure and alien only to stare at it long enough to find beauty in the unknown.
Rob Mazurek and Exploding Star Orchestra is a who’s who of contemporary musical geniuses coming together for the sake of symphonic psychedelia, forward-thinking composition, and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants creativity. Dimensional Stardust is a hard door to open, but once you do it’s a hard space to want to leave.
Rob Mazurek is a true original, working and collaborating in the jazz, experimental, and improvisational worlds of Chicago’s music scene since the early 90s. He’s worked and collaborated with artists as diverse as Stereolab, Jim O’Rourke, Sam Prekop, and Tortoise. Mazurek started Isotope 216 with guitarist Jeff Parker in the late 90s.
My first experience with Mazurek was with Black Cube Marriage’s Astral Cube. It was this noise blast of dissonant energy and percolating creativity that took me years to truly crack. I then heard his work on Chicago Odense Ensemble’s selft-titled and was floored. The coming together of electric Miles and Isotope 217 experimentalism opened my brain in new ways. And now with Dimensional Stardust Mazurek shows his strength as composer, conductor, bandleader, and musician, towing the line between jazz ensemble, modern classical, and sound experiment revue.
I feel like this is a record that needs experienced as a whole. It ebbs and flows between 50s beatnik vibes, Eric Dolphy avante garde explosions(courtesy of Nicole Mitchell’s exquisite flute), and an almost Bernard Herrmann-like quality in the composition. This album isn’t about musicians taking solos(even though everyone on here are capable of amazing work.) It’s about everyone coming together for the sake of the arrangement.
“Sun Core Tet(Parable 99)” opens with dissonant strings that brings to mind Joseph LoDuca’s reimagined score for Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. Unsettling, dizzying, and brisk tension just under the surface. “A Wrinkle In Time Sets Concentric Circles Reeling” has a beat poetry vibe with spoken word by Damon Locks.
This configuration of Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra is filled with a who’s who of amazing musicianship, including Isotope 217 band member Jeff Parker on guitar and vibraphonist Joel Ross. The aforementioned Nicole Mitchell on flute adds a delicate nature that gives the proceedings a weightlessness at times. “Parable of Inclusion” is carried by Mitchell’s playing, and the ensemble gives us a peaceful pocket to exist in for a bit. “Dimensional Stardust(Parable 33)” is dizzying in scope, working its way up a sonic flight of stairs that never seem to end.
Album closer “Autumn Pleiades” is a sort of peaceful landing for the free fall we’ve taken on Dimensional Stardust. There’s a contentment here that offers resolution.
Rob Mazurek & Exploding Star Orchestra’s Dimensional Stardust works on many levels; the virtuosic playing, the tight orchestration and improvisational nature work hand in hand, and the ethereal nature of its sound is both intoxicating and psychedelic at times. Dimensional Stardust is a masterclass in modern jazz, modern classical, and long form musical art.
8.7 out of 10
‘Dimensional Stardust’ is available now. Buy it here.