As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Chicago Underground Duo.
For 15 years, the output of Chad Taylor and Rob Mazurek has come to represent the underground of Chicago from which the [now] duo draws its name. Like the music of Sun Ra, Chicago Underground Duo does not exist in one genre, in one era, or on one plane. In fact, it’s a black hole sucking every ounce of music ever created into an unknown abyss.
What accumulates on the other side is Age of Energy. It’s a massive stack of influences condensed into infinitesimal calories, waiting to be burned as fuel by CUD. The myriad sounds of Age of Energy should overwhelm, but Taylor and Mazurek have distilled their rat packings into only the most basic single cell structures. The duo’s jazz background is ever-present but composition from the likes of Terry Riley to Daniel Lopatin finds its place in CUD’s latest. Opener “Winds Sweeping Pines” is emblematic of the entire album: space-aged drone clashes with repetitive funk and furnace blasts from the golden age of jazz. The meeting of cornet and synth in the same piece should spell disaster but the black hole of CUD is a calculating sieve, removing impurities to create sweet ambrosia.
It’s further deconstructed with “It’s Alright.” Taylor and Mazurek have fun with modern constructs while pushing jazz well past its comfort zone. To think, jazz once existed outside the comfort zone—it’s nice to see it being reinterpreted for the 21st Century. Fusion was just the beginning; Age of Energy reflect as much. Once Earth has been sucked into the ebon nothingness, hopefully everyone comes to this realization. The time to treasure the unexpected is now, and Chicago Underground Duo should be placed on Atlas’ shoulders as we all stare into the unknown.