Leak is the first album from Sensitive Chaos, a solo project of Atlanta-based producer and electronic musician Jim Combs. In January 2008, Leak was selected as a "Best Visionary Music of 2007" by KKUP 91.5 FM in Cupertino, CA. In September 2007, Sensitive Chaos was voted Atlanta Creative Loafing's Best of 2007 Readers Poll Winner for "Best Local Electronic Act".
Southeast Performer Magazine, December 2007 issue, NEWSATLANTA:
The In The News column mentions Jim's Sensitive Chaos ASCAPlus and Creative Loafing Best of 2007 awards on page 8 (NEWSATLANTA) of their December 2007 issue.
Atlanta Creative Loafing, September 26, 2007 issue, Best of 2007 Awards:
Atlanta Creative Loafing's Readers' Poll awards Sensitive Chaos as "Best Local Electronic Act". Critics pick in the same category was Damon "Habersham" Fonooni. This is the second win for Jim Combs of Sensitive Chaos, who also won the same category in 2005 as part of the electronic duo TouchXtone with Michael Thomas Roe.
John Shanahan, May 2007 Hypnagogue Ambient Music News & Reviews:
I like being pleasantly surprised by the music I receive to review. Often that surprise comes because the music belies the presentation. That is to say, the packaging, which is part of the overall experience of any CD, doesn't raise my hopes for what's inside. Without meaning to be insulting, I have to say that this was true of Sensitive Chaos' new CD, Leak. The cover logo, at first glance, looks like it was roughed out on an Etch-A-Sketch—quickly. So when I reluctantly loaded the disk hoping for the best, the effect of the music was, to pun, amplified, and in a very good way.
On Leak Jim Combs delivers a package of equal parts funk, world beats and jazz influences wrapped around a solid electronic core. The title track plods in, quaintly uncertain aboard an ungainly rhythm that slowly gains support from a quiet melody rising beneath it. These meld and smooth; shuffling percussion eases in; and then, from a distance comes Brian Good’s flowing saxophone line, elevating the piece to a feel reminiscent of Shadowfax. It does take the track six minutes to get to this point, but listening to it is like watching a building go up in time lapse. And once it’s there, it’s elegant.
The ride continues with “Android Cat Dreams of Mice,” a nice fusion of jazz and hypnosis that gets a lift from a thick, funk-inspired bass line. Good comes back on “Starry Night,” which is as close to a straight-up jazz tune as you get on Leak. It’s a sweet listen, gliding along on that sax and a bouncing beat backed with hiccuppy electronic augmentation. A distorted computer voice welcomes listeners to the upbeat, lilting track, “Painting Earthtones in Orbit.” The voice returns at the end of “Nightshift at the Baby Mecha Nursery,” a fun piece working from a tinkling melody upward into a nicely interwoven construct that subsequently unwinds itself back toward simplicity. (Whereupon we get the voice again, speaking as if to one of the robot babies—a very nice touch).
Each track is fairly long, giving Combs ample time to fully explore his ideas and possibilities. And he spends the time wisely. Leak is a very pleasant surprise and will definitely garner repeat listens.
Scott Raymond, April 2007 Secret Music, WVKR-FM:
"Sensitive Chaos is a project of Jim Combs, of TouchXTone. Kinda jazzy in spots, and a really fun album."
Sequences Music Magazine (UK), Issue No. 32 (April 2007):
Sequences includes "Starry Night" on their 10-song audio sampler disc accompanying issue no. 32. "Jim Combs' rhythmic ambient music from the States."
Guts Of Darkness, January 2007 article by Sylvain "Phaedream" Lupari:
Leak de Sensitive Chaos, est la fusion des atmosphères.
Sur la pièce titre, un synthé nonchalant traîne ses notes de guitares virtuelles qui résonnent dans une atmosphère vide. Graduellement, ces accords sont rejoints par un sax isolé et des percussions qui deviennent plus présentes, dans une ambiance de soft jazz abstrait.
Sensitive Chaos, c’est Jim Combs, la moitié de duo américain très expérimental TouchXtone. En Leak, il nous présente des compositions écrites, et enregistrées en direct, au cours des 2 dernières années. Très expérimental, avec une approche bien personnelle, le style de Sensitive Chaos reflète son identité, du chaos sensible.
Prenons Android Cat Dreams Of Mice. Des percussions, style bouteilles, carillonnent dans une ambiance placide. Doucement, un synthé s’amène avec ses notes douces et caressantes. Graduellement tout devient plus intense ; d’étranges ronflements se mélangent aux notes basses et rauques, sur un beat des îles au mouvement très sensuel. Une belle structure aux modulations bouclées, qui reviennent sur le même sentier harmonieux, ajoutant toujours un élément musical nouveau, montrant d’un cran l’attente et la curiosité. Et l’attente vaut le coup.
Une belle mélodie, aux faibles carillons, émerge d’une nuit bercée par les souffles du sax de Brian Good. Starry Night est un superbe titre qui monte en crescendo avec de puissantes percussions. Superbe, le sax se lamente sur un rythme hachuré, par un beau jeu de percussions et des strates discrètes qui entrecroisent ce mouvement envoûtant, où la petite mélodie carillonnée flotte toujours dans l’air ambiante d’une nuit que l’on souhaiterait tous les jours.
Le début de Painting Earthtones In Orbit exploite les notes carillonnées avec des voix synthétiques inaudibles. Le rythme se dessine en boucle sur des percussions feutrées et une bonne ligne de basse. La cadence augmente sur des nappes synthétiques qui semblent se chercher, mais les percussions tablas martèlent le pas sur un rythme confus, plus près d’une atmosphère statique que d’une évolution séquencée.
Court, mais fort réussi Bullet Train aurait pu faire l’intro d’émissions d’aventures et policières de ma jeunesse. Les percussions sont incroyablement mordantes. Une petite minute qui passe bien.
Nightshift At The Baby Mecha Nursery est le seul titre studio de Leak et termine dans la même atmosphère harmonieuse et carillonnée qui a fait le charme de ce premier effort de Sensitive Chaos.
Leak de Sensitive Chaos est un album de MÉ expérimental. Les rythmes se balancent entre les notes d’un clavier carillonné et des percussions aux essences et provenances variées. Avec une structure nettement plus abstraite que la MÉ conventionnelle, Sensitive Chaos parvient à maintenir un niveau harmonieux qui captive l’attention. Et un titre comme Starry Night n’est pas à la portée de n’importe quelle plume. Un très beau titre, dans un album qui se dompte assez aisément. Pour amateurs de musique expérimentale, avec un côté très harmonieux.
Sonic Curiosity, January 2007 article by Matt Howarth:
This release from 2006 features 53 minutes of pleasant electronic music.
Sensitive Chaos is Jim Combs, who is joined on two tracks by Brian Good on saxophone.
The first track is a lazy voyage of minimal keyboards that resonate in a delicate fog. Gradually, auxiliary sounds enter the mix: hesitant percussion and xylophonic notes and distant sax. As the piece progresses, mass is slowly accreted, but the density remains relatively sparse. A distinctly soft jazz flair is achieved.
With the second track, ponging leads into a stately dreamstate in which mild e-perc lends a modicum of oomph, and lilting electronics provide a pleasant tapestry for the tune to evolve into a tasty composition. Bass tones enter, adding some body to the crystalline nature of the piece.
The next song explores a nocturnal milieu with atmospheric ambience punctuated by hissing stars and sedate sax. Emerging from remote vistas, tasty rhythms provide a serene beat to the open expanse. The studied escalation is not hurried, nor do things ever grow corpulent. This relaxed progression from minimal to ambient is quite rewarding.
The fourth piece adopts a stratospheric perspective, drifting through high altitudes and looking down on a tranquil landscape. Mildly energetic riffs and soft tempos unfurl in a layer of airy textures. As is apparent by now, Combs' style of gradual evolution produces a pleasing development that culminates with a vaporous dissolution after a peaceful pinnacle has been accomplished.
The next piece is very brief and noticeably crisper than the rest of the compositions. There's no slowbuild here, it's right into a nest of lively twinkling notes and sweeping chords...and then it's done.
The last track combines the sharpness of the previous piece with the overall patient accretion exhibited throughout this release. The melodies quickly establish themselves, then meander through progressions designed to calmly stimulate the mind.
Jerry Nelms, November 2006 Music Beyond The Lake, WDBX:
"Richly nuanced, urban-sounding music"
New Age Reporter, December 2006 article by Bill Binkelman:
Leak is one of those maddeningly difficult to categorize/describe CDs that drive me nuts. I want to scream out loud how good it is, but after writing those words the details are tough to articulate! The reason that the music presents difficulties in describing it is, of course, indicative of how much talent the man behind Sensitive Chaos (Jim Combs) brings to this venture. Wielding a vast array of electronic keyboards and synths, he weaves heady and adventurous (yet from my perspective wholly accessible) ambient/electronica that crosses over into jazz fusion at times and also has some pronounced elements of retro EM as well. The music can be warm and friendly, even whimsical, or shadowy and shrouded in textural mystery. Four of the six album cuts are over nine minutes long which allows the music to take its time getting where it’s going. To add further intrigue and pique your interest, a large amount of the music was composed on the fly at various live appearances (coffee houses, mostly). So, there is an element of improvisation here as well, although Combs always took the original live composition back home and tweaked it before considering it a finished track.
Two songs, the title track and “Starry Night,” feature the über-cool sax playing of Brian Good, and its his deft soloing, snaking amongst layers of keyboards and synths, that sometimes migrates the music over into progressive jazz fusion territory (although Combs’ assorted synths still anchor each track’s aesthetic in ambient or electronica). Ambient fans who loathe sax are urged to not prejudge this CD as it would be a mistake.
At times, Leak (e.g. the track “Android Cat Dreams Of Mice”) reminded me of the Eien’s (Andrew Mays) Dandelion Dreamer. Like Eien, Combs concentrates less on the traditional ambient tools (synth pads, chords, washes, and drones) opting instead for layering notes and tones amidst his programmed beats. The sonic difference can’t be missed and lends the music a pronounced air of “fun.” On the “Android Cat…” track, the assortment of retro/contemporary bloops, bleeps, shimmering notes and tones, and thumping snapping drums build up slowly, speaking of the number of instruments and a corresponding volume level, too. All these different “things” going on form a cohesive “whole” which energizes the listener, but never too much so. Some retro synths in the track also compare to pioneering artists such as Beaver and Krause and Patrick Gleeson.
“Starry Night,” the second “sax” number, goes in a different direction, opening with classic spacemusic washes. When Good’s sax floats lazily into the scene, the music takes on a sensual aspect, only to have programmed drums and reverberating bells slowly fold into the mix. The undercurrent of floating spacemusic is still there but the beats and sax once again sway the overall feel over to that of progressive fusion. This is opposed to the title track, on which the sax has a more exotic wafting sound and the reverberating tones, plonking percussion and hand drum rhythms call to mind Robert Rich’s Gaudi.
Other tracks include the bouncy trippy “Painting Earthtones in Orbit” which abounds with tons of retro synthesizers in the latter half of the cut and the closing “Nightshift At The Baby Mecha Nursery,” another excursion into electronic whimsy, playful and lighthearted with lots of twinkling bells offset by a pleasant bass rhythm.
Leak is a thoroughly enjoyable album. Combs consistently impresses with how he blends his melodic and rhythmic synths, always maintaining a coherent vision and never allowing the improvisatory nature of his music to overwhelm its sense of purpose. I highly recommend Leak for its inventiveness, its beat-happy effervescence, and its thorough lack of pretension, not to mention it’s just a flat out fun album from start to finish.
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