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Monday, September 22, 2014

Battle Trance - Palace of Wind (NNA Tapes, 2014) ****

By Paul Acquaro

The saxophone quartet Battle Trance is the vision of tenor saxophonist Travis Laplante. The catch here is that the quartet is one that features Laplante, Matthew Nelson, Jeremy Viner, and Patrick Breiner all on tenor. A unique concept, with a unique sound, Palace of Wind is a fascinating recording with a cover image and title that references the fantastical architecture of the Hawa Mahal in Jaipur.

The album begins with the saxes abuzz like a bunch of bees in a swarm. Pulsating, vibrating, and throbbing, their tones overwhelm the senses. Eventually, slowly emerging from the intense drone and circular breathing, a melodic line rises up exuding a certain calm. Then, suddenly the group breathes a collective breath, slowly, and the tone changes.

Floating seamlessly into the second track, the texture gives way to counter melodies and references to hymnal or somewhat medieval sounding harmonies. However, not for long, as growing dissonance increases the intensity of this slowly shifting musical mass. By the final third of the track, more individual motion appears as melodies rise and float above the already hovering background. Towards the end, the dynamics shift and the tension grows as the group builds back into the menacing buzz.

Palace of the Wind requires dedicated listening. It's subtle, with minute technical movements and slight tonal shifts, and it's brutal too, with broad dynamics and moments of dissonance and tension, and they all work together to shape the album's otherworldly and hypnotic sound.

 Take a listen: