Improvised affairs can be, by their very nature, hit-or-miss. When the right combinations of players click it can be magical; at other times it can be great fun for the performers while just vaguely interesting or even downright tedious for the listener. Fortunately, chemistry and craftsmanship prevail in the new collaboration between Bay Area guitar wizard Henry Kaiser, King Crimson bassist Trey Gunn, and Mats/Morgan Band drummer Morgan Ågren. While these lads had never played together before, they find a fair amount of common ground. Kaiser is an old hand at free-improv situations (Derek Bailey, the Grateful Dead orbit). Gunn has been a member of King Crimson since 1994 and has recorded or performed with Tool, Brian Eno, and Puscifer. Swedish drummer Ågren co-leads the Mats/Morgan Band and has worked with Zappa's Universe tribute band, among others.
Far from an inharmonious din, Invisible Rays has lots of focused and emotive playing. The 22-minute title track lurches ominously and aggressively as Kaiser's six-strings seethe amid Ågren's tempestuous bashing. "Where is Juan?" has an oddly pensive quality and a searing slow-burning, blues-hinted solo by Kaiser, the sustain taking on a vocal quality. "The Secret Handshake with Danger" begins with some loping, brooding acoustic rural blues guitar before mutating into a nightmarish, drum-and-bass-propelled dreamscape. Invisible isn't easy listening nor is it musicianly masturbation — there's no verse-chorus-verse structure here. It features vivid, dynamic playing from the trio, who play as a cohesive unit throughout, fashioning a bracing experience out of nothing. (7d Media)