Our regular readers may recognize Callum Buckland’s cover image from our Spring Music Preview, and may also recognize Will Glaser, Matthew Herd and Alex Bonney‘s names from Climbing in Circles Pts. 1-3. Pt. 4 is different in two obvious ways: it’s the first of the series composed in a studio, and yields an accessible beginning and end, producing exactly what its title advertises: a circle.
When the album begins, one would be forgiven for thinking it should fall into our Modern Composition category. Waterfowl mill about as Herd plays a lovely melody on miked piano. Only at the end does Glaser’s percussion enter alongside Alex Bonney’s electronics, segueing without pause into “Stained and Fractured Glass.” Herd shifts to sax, Bonney to trumpet, and the tone to drone, so softly and subtly one hardly notices the change. This gorgeous, mood-stained piece is a perfect match for its title, graced with reverent awe. The first seven minutes ease the listener into the experimentalism, allowing the ear to acclimate.
By “Spiral Dance,” the listener has the album pegged. It’s free jazz, right? Not exactly. “Bad Dream Machine” provides a sweet showcase for Glaser’s percussion, the artist playing low notes on drums and high notes on bells. While the horns dance around the percussion, the tempo remains steady ~ or at least one set of tempos. The snare keeps the time while Glaser shifts tempo up and down on the other parts of his kit. Finally the horns can’t take it anymore; their agitation becomes obvious in the fourth minute; and then the percussion speeds and slows to match, laying the groundwork for the slow rollout of “Subterranea,” another piece connected to the one before in a manner that makes the tracks seem like movements. The line between composition and improvisation blurs beyond recognition as the piece proceeds from quietude to cacophony.
The artists are clearly having fun, placing a tiny track titled “Middle Things” in the center of an album bracketed by “Beginnings” and “Endings,” and following it with two of the set’s grooviest songs, “Of the Woods” and “Dead Fly Disco,” each which may prompt finger snapping and a search for one’s favorite beret. The latter track is a great entry point to the album, and we suspect it will be released as a single. Everyone finds a place in the club, from the dancers in front of the stage to the cool cat in the back sipping an espresso martini. There’s even a “Ballad in The Jazz Style” for those who prefer to walk slowly through the rain at midnight.
Then there’s “Psithurism,” which to be honest we had to look up ~ the word means whispering, or the sound of wind as it moves through the trees. The track begins in a clamor and ends in a breeze, flowing back to the melody that started the set. One by one the players retreat, leaving only piano, then the geese, and now we want to play the whole thing again; and so we do. (Richard Allen)