At a recent Pulsar Triyo gig on Main West Quadrangle, a student was overheard mentioning how she loved seeing the Pulsar Triyo play. "I like to listen to jazz live, but I just can't get into it on CDs," she added.
The Triyo is a tower of creativity, versatility and musicianship in Duke's otherwise weak student music scene, but unfortunately they're not so interesting on wax, either.
Like a typical Triyo concert, the new disc, Wait No More, covers a wide range of styles, from tender ballads to a manic take on Britney Spears' "Toxic." There's some phenomenal playing from senior Pulsar Li, whose style favors Ahmad Jamal-like block chords, and some tasteful, intricate drumming from Eric Bishop, a senior and recess music editor. But the disc has some flaws.
For one thing, it's over 70 minutes long. For another, the mix tends to privilege Li and Bishop at the expense of newcomer Adam Lord, Trinity '03, whose electric bass tends to be too quiet-and sound plinky when audible.
A bigger problem, though, is that the group is a bit too influenced by bands like Radiohead, Björk (whose "Joga" is covered here) and the über-dull Swedish jazz trio E.S.T. The sequential, non-repetitive structures they borrow from these progressivists are a welcome departure from the tired, old head-solo-head format. But otherwise, the music has a chilly, classical and sterile brittleness. This is propulsive stuff, with a consistent pulse, but over 72 minutes they can't seem to conjure more than a few intense flashes of soul or grittiness.
Wait No More is carefully crafted, highly musical and often witty (take, for example, the stomping, slowed-down "...Baby One More Time" quote in the "Toxic" coda). But the prospective buyer should ask himself how badly he wants a recording by what comes across on disc as the world's most avant-garde cocktail ensemble. High marks for musicality and ambition, somewhat lower marks for the actual product.
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