he mixing of jazz music and hardcore hasn't usually amounted to anything more than jazz being a slight influence on a mostly hardcore styled band. The Swing Kids in the mid nineties only provided one song on their retrospective discography that shows any direct influence. 400 Years inadvertently bring their jazz influence forward in their quieter moments. Most of the time, however, jazz is simply part of the make up of band members record collections and not as significant as the band (or record label, or promoter) would lead the listener to believe. Or, in other cases, the influence is simply of balance- claiming an influence typically means that a band sounds somewhat like that which they draw inspiration from, otherwise these “influences” are simply what the band collectively listens to in their spare time, having no bearing on their direction or sound.
It seems that where most bands fail, Off Minor picks up. Without much critical acclaim (even within the punk-hardcore community), no one seems to have noticed Off Minor much as an innovative force. They balance the jazz/hardcore ratio almost perfectly, but with only a split 12” (with I Am The Resurrection. It is currently out of print, though the Off Minor tracks exist as a CD on Golden Brown Records) to their name there certainly hasn’t been much talk since. What most current hardcore bands lack in dynamic is made up for in the 7 songs of Heat Death of the Universe, and with this release, the word will hopefully spread.
It would be far easier to simply point out every song as a standout, opposed to sorting through them for the best. The first track “Heat Death of the Universe” opens the album with chaos (in a time signature that moves beyond any natural rhythm) relieved in a few short seconds by a perfectly placed jazz-like break. The second track, “This Is A Hostage Situation” begins similarly, but soon finds itself thrown into a rhythmic progression that rivals most classic Fugazi tracks in guitar/bass/drum interplay and overall groove. I haven't often found myself unconsciously bobbing my head while listening to recorded hardcore.
The disc continues in this fashion throughout its duration- every song building to a peak that (most times) is met by a soft, perfectly placed descent in intensity. As formulaic as it all may seem on paper (or screen), Off Minor consistently surprises the listener with ever time shift and chord progression. Their drive is only interrupted by an instrumental (“The Transient”) and a short cover of “Off Minor”, by Ornette Coleman.
Heat Death of the Universe is an interesting study of two separate genres of music being extracted simultaneously through the creative efforts of three individuals, with extremely favorable results. Hopefully from here, the mixture of non-hardcore and hardcore music will become much more interesting.
Reviewed by: Al Charity
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01