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Back in the twilight zone, the improvisational quartet of Percy Jones on bass, Alex Skolnick on guitars, Tim Motzer on guitar and electronics, and Kenny Grohowski on drums, hit an early groove on ‘Columbus Part 1’. If it was a last-minute gig under difficult circumstances, it doesn’t show. Despite the lack of promotion, the turn-out was unexpectedly high at Double Happiness (what a lovely name!) and this set is remembered of one of the band’s favourites of their Midwest tour. “PAKT entered musical terrain that we’ve never explored, and even downtempo areas where we sat for a while and let melodies and moods develop. Amazing playing all around from everyone!” I agree. The use of samples and crickets (yes, crickets!) add to the unique experience. The gig was serendipitous as well in that Yalan Papillons used to book the Knitting Factory in New York City where all of the band had played.

The second part gets as demonstrative and funky as PAKT get, with stunning running basslines from Jones, and interjections from the soloists gloriously punctuating the music, with some humorous asides! Tim even tries a little reggae-inflected guitar that develops into a groove that would have got feet tapping, if not hands clapping. By contrast, the third part shows how subtle and poignant the guitar work could be, inducing a calming revere in the listener, the electronics and samples of birds and suchlike adding an impressionistic intensity. There is still a quarter of the eighty minutes to come, with a stirring denouement containing an invigorating synth solo, mesmeric guitar runs and some indefatigable drumming, with a pianissimo ending showing once again PAKT’s audio dynamic range.

PAKT’s endless capacity for inventiveness is shown in this sold-out show in Philadelphia, following on from a New York City gig the night before, but completely different. The venue was Solar Myth (SUN RA had played there). Guitar and electronics man Tim Motzer commented afterwards that the band “continues to evolve and find new harmonic and sonic pathways.” He describes the three pieces that emerged as “like a movie for the ears.”

“Philly Zone One” settles quickly into a groove, Percy Jones’ bass providing a distinctive, solid and at times virtuosic backdrop as the lead instruments negotiate their way through some snake-like coils and twists. The lead guitar is increasingly effervescent and Kenny Grohowski’s drumming reaches a frenetic pace, before a diminuendo to a pianissimo, typical of the light and shade in PAKT music.

This is a time for reflection perhaps to decide which door to open next- the ‘crickets’ are here as calm descends, and expectation builds. The 31-minute improvisational extravaganza that follows is a similar kaleidoscope of sounds and moods, ranging from the pastoral to the frenzied evocation of the hurly burly of human angst. The album seems to be reaching an intense conclusion in a whirlwind of bass, guitar and drums, before winding down with some quirky ‘call and response’ between ‘electronics’ and bass that develops into another PAKT groove, that stirs a memory of a BILL BRUFORD track of yore with Jeff Berlin on bass, quite coincidental of course.

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