Black Cube Marriage’s experimental jazz is taken to extremes on “Syncretic Illumine”


The 11-person ensemble known as Black Cube Marriage is known for their experimental approaches to avant-garde jazz. The ensemble’s latest single is a jazz snob’s dream, as it pushes the envelope in regard to the line between ordered cacophony and noise. The work itself seems a critique of modernity.

Black Cube Marriage: “Syncretic Illumine”

For most listeners, the first thing about Black Cube Marriage that needs to be unpacked is the title of the group’s newest single, “Syncretic Illumine.” As its name suggests, “syncretic” refers to something that has come to be as a result of two or more things combining. For example, the melding of punk rock and disco yields alternative pop. Typically, the words that make up the phrase “syncretic illumine” relate to religions. But it is not unheard of to apply at least one of the words to philosophic thought and other disciplines.

So, the question remains, what is being brought together, and what is being illuminated? On the surface, jazz and art of noise are combined to create experimental jazz that challenges the ideas of what listeners think of music, and what people think of jazz, more specifically.

The members of Black Cube Marriage not only play traditional instruments, such as the cornet, saxophone, guitar, but they also play audio-visual equipment. All of it works together to develop a unique soundscape that almost defies categorization.

The sound of “Syncretic Illumine” by Black Cube Marriage

At first, it is difficult to tell where the random sounds will lead. Listeners’ first impression is that a band is tuning up. Then, different sounds enter the soundscape. And floating just above and below the consistent whirrs and hums, are horn motifs that remind listeners this is jazz.

The sounds, instead of being obvious throwbacks to jazz traditions, act more like symbols. The persistent sounds, the ones that are barely heard, are humanity’s traditions. Around them, the near-cacophony of off-kilter noises, are those things that blur humanity. Or something like that.

There is a great deal going on in this 13-minute long tune. Without standard markers for rhythm, or motifs, or other guides that tell audiences when the song is moving toward its conclusion, the song is a bit of escapism for those who are ready to be challenged. For those who like their jazz straightforward, and maybe even traditional, “Syncretic Illumine” by Black Cube Marriage is not for them.


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