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Slow down. That’s the message that pulses, softly, insistently, and repeatedly, throughout the runtime of Mandatory Reality, the new album from composer and bassist Joshua Abrams and his group Natural Information Society. Recorded live at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, it is the most patient album from the group in a long discography full of them. Playing the guimbri, a three-stringed African bass with enough percussive possibilities to allow it to serve as a self-contained rhythm section, Abrams leads his seven collaborators, which include Ben Lamar Gay, Hamid Drake, Lisa Alvarado, and other members of the Chicago improv and experimental scene, into a world of longform possibility. The songs here are long: the first two, “In Memory’s Prism” and “Finite,” add up to more to than an hour of sound, and are followed by two shorter, though still considerably lengthy songs.
Recorded in Chicago, Electrical Audio, 2017