Momentum Into Nothingness
Stop by Fear Momentum Into Nothingness Tequa Productions (2005) Review by Bill Binkelman In the letter which accompanied this release from the ambient-jazz consortium, Stop by Fear, guitarist/band leader L.A. Jenkins wrote "...our music is a quintessential marriage of new music and the avant-garde. The group's combination of classical, new age, jazz, and urban hip-hop has created a powerful fusion. SBF composes music that sounds complex yet is easily assimilated by the listener. Polytonal chords, complex rhythms, pure energy and subliminal sounds create our distinctive musical sound." I couldn't put it better myself, so why bother to try? Momentum Into Nothingness is a brave excursion into what may be uncharted waters for most ambient fans, but will be less strange to (and probably resonate better with) progressive fusion and experimental jazz fans. Besides Jenkins on guitar, the group also features Phil Maneri on bass, Scott Shepard, Ben Neal and "Los" on drums, Martin Ripple on trumpet, and Steve Willis on e.w.i (electric wind instrument). It took me three playings of the CD before I started getting plugged in to what these guys are putting out there, but when I did catch the wave, I enjoyed the ride a lot! I now get where Jenkins refers to the music as "ambient jazz" because the music can have that ambient feel to it, such as on the opening "Look Out" (although the presence of trap kit drums - not drum programming - may cause some ambient devotees to wrinkle their noses) with the lyrical e.w.i. weaving a mysterious melody and counterpointed by the drums, thumping bass, and Jenkins' guitar refrains. The second track, "Unknown Man" is a better "sample" of what the rest of the album holds which is less ambient and more like progressive jazz to my ears. Mild bursts of cacophony, albeit so restrained and listenable that I feel bad labeling it that, draw the listener in at the outset. Stick around as Jenkins' solos and Ben Neal pounds those skins with arrhythmic fire and fury. "Smyle 'M' Smyle" starts off with funky (with a capital F) drum rhythms and scorching muted trumpet peals and, of course, that hooked me right away. I can't get enough of that late night back alley struttin' vibe. While Jenkins contributes some background electric guitar textures, this is really a showcase for Ripple's trumpet and Shepard's drums, and they both got what it takes. An aspect of Momentum Into Nothingness that I especially appreciated was the brevity of the tracks. There are ten all total and most are in the four to seven minute range (and the longest is only seven and half minutes long). This is crucial, as far as I'm concerned, to the appeal of this recording, since the casual fan would get bored to death by ten minute long solos or endless nonsensical noodling. Despite the experimental and free-wheeling nature of the music on the CD, I consider Stop by Fear a very tight band. Everyone takes their turns in the spotlight but no one dominates and everyone involved knows the difference between showboating and merely displaying one's chops. Smart move, that! I don't know as I can list my favorite tracks or ones that work better than others, because frankly I like the whole album and usually played it all the way through each time. "Drink the Long Though" is mellow and sultry at the same time, propelled for most of the track by only impressionistic jazz guitar soloing and kinetic cymbal work. The final movement (this is the longest track, by the way) throws all that out the window as stinging leads erupt with passion and the rest of the drum kit comes a thundering in like a stampede of horses. Some cuts are fairly experimental, such as the short closing "Dog Time" so be prepared for the unexpected, although I've heard a lot more bizarre releases, so I sure didn't get scared away by anything on this CD. In fact, since I seldom "typically" hear anything this adventurous and unconventional (meaning as an ambient and new age reviewer), I got quite the kick from it. I also loved hearing all those real drums (the CD's production and engineering are solid!). If you're up for something outside the normal Wind and Wire spectrum, and you enjoy modern jazz in particular, I recommend Momentum Into Nothingness.