An Idiot’s Guide to Experimental Jazz – Logan Kane’s Laser Cars EP

Posted: August 26, 2022 by Kat Meow in Jazz, Logan Kane, Los Angeles, Thumpasaurus
Laser Cars EP Cover

If you’re one of the person who follows this blog, you know my obsession with rising stars Thumpasaurus is practically diagnosable.  So in following the individual careers of its members, I learned that Los Angeles-based bassist Logan Kane is a scene unto himself.  The dude is prolific, having put out projects with Thump bandmate Henry Solomon, with saxophonist and partner Nicole McCabe, and with his own idol David Binney, and a stable of other collaborators.  He’s got octets and nonets, and probably one day, an orchestra of robots playing instruments fused to his neurons.  This young human, still in the springtime of his career, seems to have carved out a devoted niche for his own experimental sound, and he churns it out with a proliferant speed like he’s competing with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.  Kane’s latest EP, Laser Cars, is five tracks of high density sound that he describes as “a fun summer record [that] ultimately… turned out pretty dark.”  

Dark didn’t seem like the word to use here, or at least, not when I first listened to Laser Cars.  Then again, I have been struggling to figure out how to put words on Kane’s music.  See, I don’t know much about jazz, and Kane’s mastery is experimental jazz.  I like to think I understand musical genres and I can explain them accurately, but truth be told, my knowledge leaves a lot of gaps.  And jazz is probably the biggest gap.  So, going into Logan Kane’s musical history has been a challenge because, truth be told, I don’t know what the actual fuck I’m talking about.  Jazz as a genre is like this heralded niche that only the few and mighty can belong to, and if you don’t “get” it, you don’t get it.  And if you don’t play an instrument, or have any real music education beyond a few books and documentaries, you really don’t get it.  So I am approaching this inaccessible thing like a puzzle to be solved, and to be honest, I’m a little… intimidated.

I mean, his music has a lot going on.  It’s challenging!  When he’s composing these songs, notes are packed up into timespace so densely that there is hardly space to breathe, in organizations that seem random but still form wildly swinging melodies.  Take some of the offerings on Kane’s 2021 offering, Planet Mirrors.  Tracks “Numbers,” “Try So Hard,” and “Frustrated” are full of so much sound, they can feel difficult to parse.  Tracks “Sing Thing” and “AHH Causin a Ruckus” are further colored by the agile windwork of Nicole McCabe’s alto sax.  This is music at maximum entropy and it demands mindful attention.  My natural state when listening to music is to float away.  How do I appreciate this the right way?

Planet Mirrors cover

“Laser Cars” goes from 0-60 in a heartbeat.  Here, Kane sounds like an algorithm programmed to make music after being fed the last fifty years of high-speed video game midis.  Atop it is a pop-autotune vocal and lamenting driving oneself crazy.  What the fuck am I listening to?  It’s like the elements of the song veer into wild directions every 15-20 seconds.  So I paid close attention and realized that as the song goes on, it starts to even out into some kind of clarity.  Suddenly it occurs to me that this song makes a lot of sense.  Anxiety attack, is that you?  The high-speed plucks, shifting rhythms, bursts of instrumentation… yeah, I think I’ve had that panic attack at least once.  The lyrics seem to corroborate a fear of running out of time.  He’s sorting himself out, reminiscent of Planet Mirrors dispirited bopper “How Am I Alive.”  Mortality seems to hang over Kane (and jazz on the whole, having recently read about bass icon Jaco Pastorius and his untimely death at 35). Is this the darkness Kane was referring to?

The EP’s second track, “Blur Obscured,” is a rhythmic dance incantation that ends with some of Logan’s most expert plucking.  If “Laser Cars” was about getting on the road, “Blur Obscured” is the left lane with cruise control, no traffic, and the streets outlined in neon.  The shit I like most from Kane’s body of work is what makes me move without conscious thought, and there’s some real gems in the catalog – Planet Mirrors self-titled track moves my head around, as does 4:30am goth-industrial nightmare “WORMY” (With McCabe as Dolphin Hyperspace).  But “Blur Obscured” really leans into being a dance song with Kane’s otherworldly elements, and at moments it really feels like Cornelius meets Röyksopp, and I am living for it.  This is easily my favorite track.

Via Logan Kane’s Bandcamp. Are those… Pokemon cards?!

From here the EP takes off into VGM territory.  I could swear that Logan took his cues from 90s era video games.  Then again, it could just be that his computer-produced jazz is poking me in the nostalgia.  “Box of Facts” specifically has a tone that reminds me of the soundtrack for Taz-Mania on the SEGA Genesis, a game that did some really profound things with sound in its day and that I never really appreciated until listening to this tune.  Why, oh why, is this music dusting off the cobwebs in my hippocampus?  Have I been somehow listening to jazz music all along in my years of love for game music?  Best part is, dude hits us at the end with a vaguely political haiku.  I counted those syllables.  That was fun, like an easter egg only an English teacher could catch.

In listening to Laser Cars over and over, I started to realize the experience of listening to jazz is different from listening to other music.  I can’t walk around my house singing the songs on Laser Cars the way I have been singing songs by Sparks.  But I can have a really unique emotional experience by sitting in my feelings in jazz, even if the feeling is odd or uncomfortable, because maybe the goal is to make me feel oddness or discomfort.  And that at various times, the sounds can wander into and out of shoulder-shimmying groove or evoke experiences and arcane connections.  But I also think all music can do that.  

Hey, wait. Did I just figure out how to appreciate jazz?

Logan Kane and Nicole McCabe came through New York this week, playing a cozy cocktail bar on the edge of Bushwick, so I stopped in for my first-ever visit to a jazz club.  I tucked myself into a corner with an obscured view and listened.  The two were joined by drummer Tim Angulo and pianist Lex Corten, and a horde of young jazz acolytes watching with concentration.  Surrounding the scene were smatterings of casuals in for a no-cover drink, people alternating between quiet conversation or dancing the seated-shoulder-shimmy when the rhythms hit right.  Suddenly a drama arose as Kane, on his upright bass, fingered out an intense solo.  I couldn’t see him, but I could see eyes glued to him.  Conversations had lulled to near quiet.  The crowd was intensely focused on Kane’s deep vibrations.  Finally, the solo peaks and the tension releases.  The kids erupt in shouts and applause as the rest of the players come back in and take back the music.  For a moment in time, the jazz musician was able to make a room of people sit and take notice.  And I realize, yeah. I can get into this.

Logan Kane’s Bandcamp ★ Logan Kane’s Linktree ★ Logan Kane’s Instagram

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  1. […] An Idiot’s Guide to Experimental Jazz – Logan Kane’s Laser Cars EP […]

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