Aside from a 56-second extract of "Song I," Frame Loop comprises four variations on "Song II," a cyclical Zummo composition that's insistent and compelling no matter how the players attack it. Sometimes Zummo's trombone and Russell's amplified cello dutifully grind out the piece's looping figure while Ruyle and Ahmed dart around them. In other places, percussion holds the piece's foundation while Russell improvises, or Zummo unspools ripples of horn.
What sets Frame Loop apart from Zummo's other work of this period is its commitment to rhythm. Where other recordings showed Zummo's group sometimes drifting through passages without discernible beats, here the band's swing is always solidly in place. Two pieces are subtitled "On The Beat" and two are tagged "Off The Beat," but every moment feels tied to an eternal rhythm, similar to the way Steve Reich's repetitive loops are the irreplaceable heart of his music.
Frame Loop exudes a calm air that cleverly masks all the activity going on. In other hands the many criss-crossing instrumental lines here could result in chaos, but Zummo conducts his comrades so that their nuances are just as important as their crescendos.