Rob Mazurek – Exploding Star Orchestra “Dimensional Stardust”

Rob Mazurek’s work has always pushed boundaries and dissected common ideas and approaches. Eschewing already-blazed paths, he creates sprawling worlds of sound uniquely his own whether it’s with his solo work, various groups he’s part of, or, in this case, with the always great Exploding Star Orchestra. On Dimensional Stardust, you find yourself estranged on an alien planet where familiar pieces are everywhere, but nothing looks or sounds as expected.

Dimensional is the key word here. On a record with 12 artists in addition to Mazurek, each has their own orbit and approach. This version of the Exploding Star Orchestra is a veritable who’s who of the current Chicago scene. Taking off on an unmistakably difficult journey, so much of what makes this record great is the deft interplay between an endless combination of instrumentation. Outshining anyone is never a concern; each musician has exactly the space they need within Mazurek’s compositions. Ranging from deep bass grooves that burst into fire like “The Careening Prism Within (Parable 43)” to the meditative, string-laden “Autumn Pleiades” and experimental, noise-based minimalism of “Minerals Bionic Stereo.” These intricately crafted pieces are a maze made with seemingly-impossible precision. Stunning.

“Parable of Inclusion” finds liftoff with Nicole Mitchell’s flute and Joel Ross’s vibraphone weaving serpentine patterns. By the time Macie Stewart and Tomeka Reid’s violins and cellos arrive, stretching out roots for the whole thing, you are riding a kite through windy overcast skies, dreaming of the ground you may never set foot on again. It’s almost spiritual the way Mazurek weaves each piece together, locking in a whole well beyond its component parts. 

Damon Locks’ words penetrate through skin and muscle, ingraining deep into bone. “Be with us! We Belong!” he beckons over a rising tide of sonic debris on “Abstract Dark Energy (Parable 9).” His voice rings through the hollow wreckage, holding out hope against encroaching shadows. Earth can’t hold us anymore, but Dimensional Stardust is waiting to scatter everyone into the next galaxy.