The Snowmonks are alluring at the outset.

Cool moniker, nice smoky premise of performance art razzle-dazzle. Spoken-word poetry over spontaneous jazz, capturing the moment, man.

This type of project can work if treated with enough reckless adventure: Jim Morrison had the requisite wattage to ensure his rambling was indulged.

But it may take a special type of music lover to embrace “Crimes Against Inhumanity,” the latest from these Portland hipsters. And the cool name has changed to 86 Ensemble.

Gil Helmick is an OK speaking poet, inflection-wise, but his colors are dulled, and his imagery lacks force.

“April snow wanders through the gray morning / As caffeine pries open my gray matter,” he utters without urgency, at long last, 1:15 into the opener “As Subtle As Possible: Version 1.” This track — indeed, much of this album — is so subtle that it comes and goes without impact.

In “Scranton Bar,” the project gains a little bit of traction, if only by emphasizing all those “long and thin” items in the room.

There’s a case to be made for this type of ephemera, but it sure is demanding a lot of patience from the listener, and that’s a precious commodity these days.

The immense jazz acumen of the musicians is left trailing behind a half-baked vision.

Spoken-word music may rarely have hooks, but the Snowmonks’ offerings need some to give any motivated listener reason to put this collection in their headphones over all other choices.


Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.