Essential New Music: Matthew Lux’s Communication Arts Quartet’s “Contra/Fact”

Have you ever said something and then, upon reflection, thought you could say it just a little better? Nowadays, the sequential release of music on different formats provides a readymade opportunity to polish your points, and that’s exactly what Matthew Lux has done with the LP edition of Contra/Fact. The Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist, whose work has covered the spectrum from psychedelic jazz with Rob Mazurek to lyrical folk rock with Moon Bros, rearranged, condensed and remastered the music from the original cassette to create a pithier, punchier LP. It was the right move.

Given the stark lyricism of Ben Lamar Gay’s cornet and the depth of Lux’s grooves, it’s easy to compare this music to that of Miles Davis’ early electric period, but that leaves out a host of other influences. While jazz-rooted improvisation glues it together, there are moments when Contra/Fact sounds like a Brazilian street party and others that are closer to musique concrète.

—Bill Meyer