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The Nerve Institute: Architects of Flesh-Density *

Album Notes

Mike Judge has professed disinterest in forming a band, and the multi-instrumentalist ensconced himself alone in the studio to create 2011's Architects of Flesh-Density, his AltrOck label debut as the Nerve Institute. Guitarist, bassist, drummer, percussionist, keyboardist, vocalist, banjoist, mandolinist, saxophonist, composer, and arranger (Is that all? What a lazybones!) Judge is ostensibly a prog rocker -- and prog rockers can sometimes be a solitary lot. He recorded his debut in Kansas City, Missouri, and although his brief period of study at the internationally prestigious University of North Texas College of Music (which he apparently found creatively stifling) in Denton, Texas certainly placed him amidst other highly skilled musicians for a while, Judge sought no collaborators on Flesh-Density aside from remastering by Israeli mixing/mastering whiz Udi Koomran. And yet, while the album is 100 percent Mike Judge, he sometimes sounds more enamored of band music than any multi-tracking solo musician you're ever likely to hear. Like other tracks throughout the album, leadoff number "Horror Vacui" is obviously a studio creation: the drumming is impossibly sharp and crisp; the sudden bursts of metal guitar riffing over jazzy electric keys and acoustic strumming have instantaneous attack and decay; Judge's arty pronouncements jump from speaker to speaker -- so Flesh-Density is far from "live"-sounding. The lengthy multi-sectioned songs have the kind of tightness, complexity, and sonic treatments one would expect from well-executed studio-based prog, too. But something else happens in the midsections of many of these pieces: Judge becomes a one-man jam band, tossing guitar riffs back and forth, loosening and tightening the rhythms, comping with what could easily pass for in-the-moment responses. Make no mistake, tricky arrangements abound, with hints of pop psychedelia, jazz-rock fusion, and even Latin rhythms aided and abetted by those strumming acoustic guitars. Judge even manages sudden shifts into Middle Eastern and Indian modes, as in the astounding "Prussian Blue Persuasion." Meanwhile, his sometimes treated vocals, erudite and mixing nonchalance with a touch of swagger, slip between the lengthy instrumental passages, delivering 5uu's/Thinking Plague-ish lines like "Polonaise to the echo of water/Turn a tierce in the hemisphere's cut." (He majored in English literature and is a published novelist.) Then the intricacies melt away into jams that place Judge's fiery guitar soloing amidst what sounds very much like a band in full-on interactive mode. It all suggests that he might enjoy some real, flesh-and-blood people to jam with, instead of an assemblage of digital doppelgängers. Then again, who else could play all those instruments as well as he does? ~ Dave Lynch


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