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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Trevor Taylor, Paul Dunmall, Phillip Gibbs - Circuit: Electro Acoustic Ensemble (FMR, 2015) ***

By Lee Rice Epstein

In the promo materials for the latest from Trevor Taylor’s Circuit: Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, Paul Dunmall’s flashing a typical bright, huge smile, emblematic of the friendly openness he brings to any creative music. Taylor, Dunmall, and Phillip Gibbs have worked in the quartet Atmospheres Without Oxygen, in addition to joining together in a variety of lineups for Taylor’s Circuit ensemble. The overall mood of this session is comfortable and relaxed, with all three exploring some newer timbres. Taylor has an expansive kit of acoustic and electronic percussion, and Gibbs is primarily on electric guitar. And Dunmall, in addition to sax and flute, spends much of the album on a Yamaha WX7, a vintage “wind synth” from the 1980s.

The album’s divided into 5 unnamed, improvised tracks. It’s a brief album, clocking in around 40 minutes, and it sort of floats along ethereally. The bubbling MIDI sounds of the WX7 weave nicely with Gibbs’s delicate guitar work on “Track 1.” Taylor provides some excellent mallet work on both “Track 1” and “Track 2,” where he adds a gently ringing vibe sound that amplifies Gibbs’s bright improvisation. These two and “Track 5,” all with Dunmall on the WX7, are the most electro- of the electro-acoustic. The remaining tracks, “Track 3” with Dunmall on sax and “Track 4” with Dunmall on flute and electronics,” blend the acoustic winds with piercing electronic tones that warp and wind themselves through Dunmall’s cautious, probing solos. Taylor deftly switches between metallic percussion and the full drum kit, and “Track 3” settles into a fascinating groove, with Gibbs providing some lush textures.

Circuit: Electro Acoustic Ensemble is the seventh in this series of ensembles, led by Taylor. As I mentioned, there’s a really comfortable vibe to this whole recording, due largely to the years of collaboration among Taylor, Dunmall, and Gibbs, although it’s not without its surprises and many, many moments of delight.