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The evolution of Critters Buggin

Fri., Sept. 3, 2004

After a brief hiatus from recording and touring, Critters Buggin has returned with a new bag of tricks.

It took the Seattle cyber-jazz quartet four days to record, mix and master the album “Amoeba” (1999).

The result was jarring, dizzying snippets of spontaneity in a maelstrom of jazz-fused electronica.

But on Critters Buggin’s June release, “Stampede,” a bit more care was taken.

Instead of digitally splicing hours of improvisational jams into “songs,” Critters plotted compositions, even going as far as calling in old hometown friend and avant-garde legend Eyvind Kang (who has worked with Bill Frisell, John Zorn and Beck) to write, arrange and perform string arrangements for three tracks.

With Critters’ previous work released on Pearl Jam guitarist and friend Stone Gossard’s Loosegroove label, “Stampede” is the group’s first venture on independent Ropeadope label and its first album in five years.

Critters Buggin plays songs from “Stampede” on a co-headlining bill with straight-jazz stylers The Bad Plus on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at The Met.

Shirking its usual stage antics and penchant for dressing up as robot skeletons, Critters is leaving the merit of the music to stand on its own on the current tour, instead of letting the absurdist visual distractions create noise between the audience and the instruments.

And Critters Buggin contains reputable instrumentalists indeed.

During Critters’ hiatus, vibraphonist Mike Dillon and saxophonist Skerik signed with Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade as well as supergroup Garage-A-Trois.

Drummer Matt Chamberlain and bassist Brad Houser – both founding members of The New Bohemians (the former also doing time in Pearl Jam and G.E. Smith’s Saturday Night Live Band) – accompanied David Bowie, Tori Amos, Elton John and more on stage.

Midwest jazz trio The Bad Plus is equally eclectic, playing more traditional jazz but not without risk.

The Bad Plus helped re-introduce jazz to a broader audience last year with dynamic songwriting and clever covers of songs from The Pixies, Black Sabbath and Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction album.


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