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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Vox Arcana - Soft Focus (Relay, 2012) ****

By Philip Coombs

There are some songs that have the ability to give my ears complete satisfaction. I say ears because, for me, they are the impartial average between my head's reaction to music and my gut's. These tracks give a completeness if you will. Never longing for them to be longer or shorter. They keep my attention throughout their duration and they never let me down the more I listen to them. Most of the time they are the sounds that give the truest representation of that particular gathering of musicians in a room; a band defining moment.

'De Grote Olifant' is one of them. This is what Vox Arcana is. Simply put, Tim Daisy (drums and composition), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello) and James Falzone (clarinet), but this is anything but simple. This opening track is a mash up of energy wrapped in a ball of free jazz which segues into a vast melodic landscape before diving head first into one of the best drum solos of the year. A must hear for sure.

Track two, 'Soft Focus', is another one. This is what Vox Arcana is. Simply put, Daisy (marimba), Lonberg-Holm (electronics) and Falzone (clarinet). Yes that's right, this is Vox Arcana as well. The marimba steals the show on this one early. Daisy brings the same power, energy and confidence to this instrument as he does the drum kit. He provides such a high caliber solo that this and the one mentioned earlier demand multiple listens. They literally had me on the edge of my bus seat smiling from ear to ear.

Both Lonberg-Holm and Falzone  are very in tune with Daisy's vision and perform on a very profound level where nothing is wasted and their narratives are crystal clear, for example, the feeling they draw from 'White Numbers'.

There are some real heady, mathematical moments on this recording, with amazing technical ability as well as some real emotional ones, with amazing heart. Falzone and Lonberg-Holm excel on this album when they wring out each note until it is exposed and vunerable. When you hear one side of the band, you almost can't wait for the opposite and vice versa, as the two different sides of the band are equally compelling. Simply put, Vox Arcana is Vox Arcana.

They pack a lot into a recording that is less than 37 minutes in length. With this, comes the challenge of being decisive and succinct in order to get the vision across and leave the listener's ears very happy, which is what they manage to do with authority on Soft Focus.

Can be acquired through Instant Jazz.

An example of head and heart from a couple of years back.