Friday, March 24, 2006

Steve MacKay

Michigan and Arcturus

Saxophone player Steve MacKay has played a crucial role in the secret history of American underground music. Listen to Funhouse by the Stooges and his manic skronk and wail is there with blistering resonance. The Violent Femmes, Mike Watt and J. Mascis all have called upon his stormy lungs to make their offerings a little less tame. Rather than rest on his laurels, MacKay’s ever-mutating Radon Ensemble traverses gut-punching swells of jazz, noise and improvisation. Michigan and Arcturus cycles through nearly a dozen players, capturing turbulent and baroque instability. Fuzzed-out recording qualities add grit to an already visceral drive in “The Moment Is Sinking, pt. 1” and “Oirt Rewop,” illustrating the real-time spontaneity summoned during these sessions. Sound levels in “Los Altos Blues” shred the red line into ribbons, trying desperately to contain a brutal balance of drone and melody. It’s the imperfections that make these songs perfect.

-- Chad Radford

(Published by Creative Loafing. March, 23, 2006).