By Paul Acquaro
Lama is an electronically enhanced acoustic drum, bass and trumpet trio that has delivered an excellent album with "Oneiros". The pieces fit together so tightly that there's hardly room for a wasted note, beat or breath as the musicians move gracefully through the set of songs, nimbly riding the contours between structure and freedom.
For the most part, the instruments are used fairly conventionally, though the musicans are not prone to hold back from extended technique when the moment calls, or use electronic processing and real-time loops to create new possibilities. Trumpeter and group leader Susana Santos Silva plays mostly with a clean and dynamic tone. Bassist Goncalo Almeida's upright sound is perfect support for Silva, as he produces a rich sound that contracts nicely with the more subtle use of electronics. Greg Smith's drumming and percussion is an important connection between the other instruments, whether creating texture or coming up with a smart groove.
The first tune, 'Alguidar' contains a little of everything, from a static-laden start that seques into an nonabrasive noise jam and then into a complex groove between Almeida and Smith. Silva delivers, over the elastic time, some possibly Ayler-inspired martial themes but goes far beyond them into a spirited improvisation.
'Overture for Penguins' begins with a simple but effective theme bowed on the bass. Electronics crackle and spit, and soon comes in Smith's colorful percussion and Silva's crystal clear and driving trumpet. A playful juxtaposition of light and dark rhythms help conjure a delightful tension, and as the tune unfolds, it takes on an almost rock-ish dimension.
A tune whose title speaks to me, 'My Fucking Thesis', circles around in an echo filled chamber of angular ideas and passionate argument. The electronics are used here for texture and fill, like cross hatching in a sketch. The brittle fizzle and digital spittle adds depth to the acoustic lines. Moments towards the end of the song, and especially in the next tune 'The Chimpanzee Who Told Man How To Cry' remind me of Miles Davis, somewhere between the minimalist funk of Miles in the Sky and the sheer power of Bitches Brew. Quieter moments, like in the title track, display a sensitive and melodic fragility that exudes a certain melancholy.
Overall 'Oneiros' is a dynamic album with a lot to offer the listener. It defies the conventional but is also quite accessible. Highly enjoyable and grows better and better with each listen.
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