Album: ‘Lightning Dreamers’ by Rob Mazurek – Exploding Star Orchestra

Rob Mazurek - Exploding Star Orchestra'
Photo by Britt Mazurek

‘Lightning Dreamers’ marks the new album release from the everprolific Rob Mazurek and his Exploding Star Orchestra and unveiled through the sensational recording hub of International Anthem Recordings.

It’s always worth pointing out that continued collaborations between Mazurek and International Anthem always hit with a twinge of poignancy what with Mazurek having helmed the very first release on the revered Chicago label back in 2014 with ‘Alternate Moon Cycles’.  Releases since then have facilitated an incredible journey for both the trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist and composer and the Chicago label as well.

Mazurek has always boasted an innate ability to create music with his feet planted within seemingly disparate musical realms – from the ever-evolving nature of his Exploding Star Orchestra (which launched back in 2005) to the vast array of ensembles and collectives including Chicago Underground project, Alien Flower Sutra, Pharoah and the Underground, Isotope 217 and São Paulo Underground to the more immersive and electronica-driven solo projects released through the Astral Spirits label.

As far as Rob Mazurek projects go, the Exploding Star Orchestra remains unrivalled in its style and motivations – a phenomenal collective that has seen various iterations over the years since its initial inception, the ensemble continue to forge ahead into unexplored territories as they did with their previous tremendous release, ‘Dimensional Stardust’ (2020).

The ‘Lightning Dreamers’ reintroduces several names from ‘Dimensional Stardust’ with guitarist Jeff Parker, vocalist Damon Locks, pianist Angelica Sanchez and flautist Nicole Mitchell returning as part of the Orchestra alongside Gerald Cleaver (drums), Mauricio Takara (percussion) and Craig Taborn (Wurlitzer).  With incredible sadness ‘Lightning Dreamers’ does not benefit from the contribution of trumpeter and International Anthem label mate Jaimie Branch who sadly passed away last year and is dearly missed this time round particularly when considering the inspired textures she ushered in throughout ‘Dimensional Stardust’.

‘Lightning Dreamers’ showcases Mazurek and the accompanying Orchestra clock up an impressive forty minutes over the course of just five songs.  With compositions navigated by the kingly voice of Damon Locks, this album celebrates the wonders as found more immediately around us and not as much as the celestial wonders beyond our sky like this album’s predecessor.  The fourteen minute epic that is ‘Black River’ succeeds as a journey in its own right while tracks like ‘Future Shaman’ and ‘Dream Sleeper’ brilliantly capture the awe and imagination now so synonymous with Mazurek’s music.

Earlier, we cited Mazurek’s inaugural release for International Anthem with ‘Alternate Moon Cycles’, and now – nine years later – Rob Mazurek further contributes to both his, and the label’s, lineage with another staggering offering from his Exploding Star Orchestra.

Imran Mirza

I love discovering something I've never heard before and sharing that feeling with like-minded people who embrace the music in the same way. You're welcome to join me on more of my musical misadventures on Blue-in-Green:RADIO.

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