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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Devin Hoff - Ansible (Bandcamp, 2013) ***½

By Paul Acquaro

You may know Devin Hoff as the bassist with Nels Cline Singers, here, he has hooked up with some of the Chicago's avant-garde players in a project that "explores the intersections of late 70-s-early 80’s 'post-punk' and the electric avant-garde (or 'free funk') of roughly the same period..." ( More importantly, he's taken Ken Vandermark's sax, Jeff Parker's guitar, Frank Rosaly's drums and his own bass playing and mixed up a potent rhythmic brew.

The playing, as can be expected, is excellent. Vandermark sets the bar high on the first track, 'Jack Parson's Live'. After a drum and bass introduction, the saxophonist begins digging in and ratchets up the intensity. Listen mid-track to Parker's guitar -- his comping is as intense as Vandermark's fiery lines. 'I was Aiwass' seems like the most composed of the pieces, kicking off with a syncopated groove laid down by Hoff and accentuated by Rosaly's kinetic drumming. The tune is bookended by a funky melodic snippet that also appears below the solos. The rhythm guitar is solid throughout, giving Vandermark the floor on the first and last solo sections. Parker's solo starts slowly with clean single note runs but grows knotty. The last track, 'No-Grav Slow-Jam (for Shannon Lucid to sing)'  takes a while long to evolve, however, when it finally does, its dark heavy rhythm and Parker's tense arpeggios are worth the wait.

There are moments when the brew's potency ebbs a bit in places, however, all considered, Ansible an interesting project from Hoff that embraces deep grooves and some funky improvisations.

Check it out on Bandcamp: