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Wednesday, May 19, 1999

Review - Ponga

Artist: Ponga

Posted on Wed, May 19, 1999 at 4:00 AM

Ponga is one letter longer than Pong, which is fitting: Ponga pound, bounce and boing their way through improvisational music without a leaden 'tude about changing jazz or needing perfection. In fact, Ponga's self-titled debut, featuring Wayne Horvitz, Bobby Previte, Dave Palmer and Skerik, is wholly improvised and matches a distinct Manhattan downtown-scene aesthetic with West Coast freakiness. Chaos and cool hang tight.

Ponga differs from Tortoise (purported new improvisers) by adamantly stating in the disc's liner notes "no overdubs," and that's risky business. The songs leap from groove to near noise. Skerik's samples and sax often cue the dynamics (as on "Blowtorch" ). Horvitz (keys) and Previte (drums) -- as elder statesmen -- surrender themselves to spontaneity. Their combined instinct is vital. Some cuts go way out there -- straight-ahead jazz fans may get jittery . But jittery is good. Somebody described Ponga as drum & bass artists Photek meets Miles Davis' Bitches Brew. Lordy, that's it!

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