An avant-garde effort by two disparate bands attempting to bridge the expanse between experimental jazz and neoclassical composition, The Nitrate Hymnal is odd yet ambitious. Punk veterans the Gena Rowlands Band and fusion cooperative Anti-Social Music have pooled their ambitions to create a sparse, idealized narrative about an old woman who relives her life through home movies, riding this nostalgic thread right up until the moment of her passing. Overtly impressionistic, it's as impenetrable as its name implies, defying any hint of accessibility with its fragmented strings, brittle violins, and muffled keyboards. Despite a story line that leans on evocative imagery, and an attempt to illuminate the characters by employing four singers on ten tracks (including one who's actually operatic), the music sounds so devoid of melody it does little to advance the plot. These are more soundscapes than actual songs dreamy, sleepy interludes enveloped by ominous arrangements and atmospheric ambiance. The opening track ironically titled "The End" lays out the credo: "In the end, dying is such a cliché that's why I love the movies/At the end it's okay to stop caring." Unfortunately this set is so dark and dismal that many listeners will likely stop caring long before then.
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