The super-trio of Aidan Baker, Andrea Belfi and Erik Skodvin has returned with a vengeance, taking time from solo and group projects to jam together once more. And what a beautiful racket it is. Recorded in a church but mastered in a studio, Coltre/Manto sounds both spontaneous and structured, an outpouring of mutual respect that benefits both trio and listener.
Surprisingly, while it shares elements with the work of Nadja, Deaf Center and Hocombo, the album sounds specifically like none. B/B/S has carved out its own niche, in which it is happy and well-fed. Disregarding previous concepts and expectations, even those created by its own 2013 debut Brick Mask, the trio steps forth in confidence with two extended tracks that verge on post-rock but take in elements of multiple genres. Ambience is a clear influence, especially in quieter moments of tonal exploration. Improvisation runs rampant as well. These tracks are difficult to diagram, turning down dark corners when least expected. Plenty of Big Moments are included, but they are not always found in typical places; “Coltre” may start and end in thickness, but “Manto” withholds any closing catharsis. At this juncture of their careers, the players may have grown tired of the expectations their own works have created, preferring instead to investigate different paths.
Belfi’s drums are active and tribal, given ample room to breathe. In “Coltre”, the rhythms are balanced by electronics, which we attribute to Skodvin. The combination is eerie and alluring. “Coltre” focuses closer on guitar, more wool than cotton. In the opening minutes, cymbal and bell are used to offset the electric tones. The piece begins in plodding fashion – it’s not intended to be a hit – but proceeds to establish a mood of anticipatory violence. By the fifth minute (a quarter of the track), the timbres shift to percolation without ever coming to a boil. This music is meant to wash over the listener like smoke in a nightclub, a mingling of the benign and the threatening. The three artists are represented by the three layers pictured on the cover, and their byproduct is a lovely steam. (Richard Allen)