SOMEWHERE between progressive jazz and experimental rock there sits a whole array of musicians who have embraced electronic music without losing touch with the pleasures of natural sound. Here are a few current examples:
INTERIOR -- "Interior" (Windham Hill WH-1047). The most amazing thing about the music of this Japanese quartet is the ease with which it blends acoustic and electronic instruments. Doubtless some of that has to do with the tasteful production by former Yellow Magic Orchestra member Haruomi Hosono, but mostly it's the group's seamless ensemble playing that gives an unassuming gloss to the jazzy material.
CLUSTER & BRIAN ENO -- "Old Land" (Relativity EMC 8057). Anyone who ever wondered where Brian Eno's pop instincts had gone need look no further. The textures generated by the German synth duo Cluster, as atmospheric as ever, add just the right amount of understatement to Eno's wistful melodies. The result is music that sits somewhere between the warm soundscapes of Eno's "Another Green World" and the cool wit of his "Before and After Science."
JOEL CHADABE -"Settings for Spirituals/Solo" (Lovely Music VR 1302). Although the shimmering textures of his synthesized "Solo" are wonderful enough, Chadabe's electronic treatments of a half-dozen spirituals are what merit the most attention. On the one hand, he has softened the music's textures, until the songs take on the quality of lullabies; on the other, the odd harmonies and rhythms he superimposes seem to put each spiritual in an entirely new light.
MAX LASSER'S ARK -- "Into the Rainbow" (Relativity EMC 8058). Lasser plays guitar with Andreas Vollenweider, and he has the expected weakness for moody, atmospheric instrumentals. But where his boss has largely abandoned jazz, Lasser revels in it, strumming lazy modal blues and breezy ballads like a laid-back Pat Metheny. Trouble is, Lasser never manages the occasional bursts of energy that make Metheny's music worthwhile. This is background sound at best.
TUXEDOMOON -- "Holy Wars" (Cramboy 2020). At its best, Tuxedomoon sounded like a punk rock Weather Report, juggling both sophisticated textures and blunt intensity. Trouble is, now that the band's proficiency has increased, its edge seems to have diminished, making a muddle of the music. Here, the band swings maddeningly between the eerie percolation of "Some Guys" and the annoying self- indulgence of "Bonjour Tristesse." Worth sampling, but definitely an acquired taste.