Angles 9 – Disappeared Behind the Sun (Clean Feed, 2017) ****½
Angles 9 - Equality & Death/Pacemaker EP (Omlott, 2016) ***
By Troy DostertGiven the tumultuous global circumstances in which we live, groups like Angles 9 aren’t just valuable: they’re a necessity. Since its first incarnation in 2008 (with Every Woman Is a Tree), the band has sought not only to provide engaging, spirited, fiery music—it has done so while trying to call attention to the plight of those confronting the modern horrors of warfare, genocide, and political repression. One can certainly appreciate the group’s output on its musical merits alone; but for those of us sympathetic with the deeper message of the group’s political stance, its music is thereby rendered all the more powerful and vital.
On these records the band once again performs as a nonet, with the same personnel who appeared on 2014’s outstanding Injuries: Alexander Zethson (piano), Andreas Werliin (drums), Eirik Hegdal (baritone sax), Goran Kajfes (cornet), Johan Berthling (bass), Magnus Broo (trumpet), Martin Küchen (alto and tenor sax), Mats Aleklint (trombone), and Mattias Ståhl (vibes). The Clean Feed release, Disappeared Behind the Sun (the title a reference to victims of political terror arrested without trial), offers five tracks in the customary Angles style, with incendiary horns developing simple but highly infectious melodic themes over danceable rhythmic foundations.
The group’s long-standing Balkan folk influence is especially noticeable on the record’s opener, “Equality & Death,” which roars out of the gate with Küchen’s bleating sax and a steady 4/4 snare beat from Werliin propelling the track inexorably forward, while the rest of the band surges with the help of a steady vamp by the rhythm section. The second cut, “Ardor,” opens like a mid-60s Blue Note track, with an engaging piano ostinato supporting an emotional solo from Broo, until the band joins in with another Eastern European-inspired theme and a loose, funky rhythmic backdrop. The remaining tracks all maintain the band’s intensity and sense of purpose, with “Pacemaker” a riveting 5-minute onslaught built around a bluesy-sounding riff interspersed with periodic cacophony from the horns, while the record’s title track and “Love, Flee Thy House” are a bit more expansive, with longer solo opportunities and moments to break the pulse of the music a bit, giving the group’s poignant melodies even more room to emerge. While the musicianship is very strong throughout, it’s worth emphasizing that Angles 9 really derives its impact from its emotional punch and undeniable sense of conviction; it’s a gripping and moving record from start to finish.
The Omlott EP, comprising two of the pieces on Disappeared Behind the Sun, “Equality & Death” and “Pacemaker,” won’t be of much value to those who want to have all the music from this recording session. I suppose those who appreciate the good ol’ days of 7” vinyl records may derive some satisfaction from owning a copy, but most fans of the group will want the Clean Feed release, as all five tracks are essential listening.