Boston’s long-running instrumental quartet has always flown in the face of the dictionary definition of its name; Cul de Sac possesses a much more expansive and hard to pinpoint structural arrangement. The group delights in the link between sources as seemingly diverse as John Fahey (with whom they recorded) and Can (with whose onetime singer Damo Suzuki they toured in May 2002). Guitarist/writer Glenn Jones utilizes everything from Middle Eastern tonalities and scales to pure noise soundscapes (for which he’s apt to use “The Contraption,” a homemade stringed apparatus loaded to the gills with all manner of electronic hardware). Robin Amos’ synthesizers were first heard in the legendary Girls, from which he went on to form Shut Up, which also included Jones. His approach to the instrument brings its electronic character to the fore; avoiding melodic input, he creates the weather — every condition under the sun — the rest of the band marches through.
The original rhythm section of drummer Chris Guttmacher (from Bullet LaVolta) and bassist Chris Fujiwara created a regularly metered foundation that continuously sliced and framed the elements provided by Jones and Amos, like some sort of a musical sequence of Muybridge photographs. Ecim effectively states their case, and was the start of their largely European critical accolades. After Guttmacher left in late ’93 (replaced by Jon Proudman, ex- Men & Volts), the group assembled I Don’t Want to Go to Bed from hours of music they’d improvised and recorded in their rehearsal space. China Gate evinces a broadened pallet, both in terms of the ensemble’s interplay and Jones’ compositions. Proudman is an extremely musical drummer who can hold down the fort while taking off on flights of fancy with the liquidly propulsive Fujiwara.