Known Johnson

March 9, 2007

Big Satan: Livein Cognito

Filed under: Music,Reviews — Tom @ 11:44 am

There are times when normal music just doesn’t make sense, or maybe makes too much sense. There are days when the predictability of that verse/chorus/verse formula that most modern, popular music is formed upon just isn’t going to do the job, and I go searching through my collection for the big guns – something heavy, noisy, cantankerous. Big Satan delivers.

A few minutes in, all I can think is, “Thank God I don’t know what’s coming next, thank God there’s no steady beat, thank God there are no common chord progressions, thank God it sometimes sounds like cats fighting in a bag of pans. Thank God it’s not predictable. I can’t take that right now.” Again, Big Satan delivers.

Tom Rainey, a drummer who manages most times to sound like at least two, Marc Ducret, the guitar-bastard child of skronk-era Bill Frisell and David Torn, and Tim Berne, heir to the throne of John Zorn play here like a ball of tangled, bare wires, plugged in and sparking wildly. These three could sound to some like they’re simply flailing about on their instruments, but to the right pair of ears, it’s clear these guys are listening closely, responding to each other, sometimes very subtly, in ways that reveal a lifetime spent seeking new avenues of speaking musically outside the norm. Listen in “Mr. Subliminal” how each player seems to bounce ideas off each other, domino-effect like, until it’s impossible to tell who is leading who. Great trios do this almost subliminally – the music just flows between them because they all work on the same level, each encouraging the other and goading the others on to more and better. And this is a great trio.

It’s rough, it’s raw, and it’s certainly not for everyone, but for those that found the two studio Big Satan albums intriguing, this is without a doubt a must have. While Big Satan here isn’t drastically different than its other releases, it’s a wild beast on stage that is not to be missed. Really, any excuse to hear these three musically duke it out is a good excuse. You guessed it – Big Satan delivers.

Unfortunately, Livein Cognito is not available through normal outlets. Head to Tim Berne’s fantastic Screwgun Records website to order this amazing 2-CD set for a mere $15.99. What do you know? Screwgun delivers too.



  1. Hi, nice review, tim sent it to me. Looks like blogcritics magazine is using an old bigsatan record cover. you can use this for livein cognito.

    Ill ba adding a link on the site to your review.


    Comment by jason — March 11, 2007 @ 8:47 am | Reply

  2. Thanks Jason! Unfortunately, the way the linking system works on Blogcritics, they use Amazon ASIN codes to generate the thumbnails and since Livein Cognito isn’t available on Amazon, it’s grabbing one of the other albums instead. That’s why I made sure to point readers to the Screwgun site in hopes they’ll spend some cash there instead. 🙂

    Comment by Tom — March 11, 2007 @ 9:30 pm | Reply

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