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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Lina Allemano's Titanium Riot - Squish It! (Lumo Records, 2017) *****

By Lee Rice Epstein

It’s been two years since trumpeter Lina Allemano’s last record with her electro-acoustic Titanium Riot (Kiss the Brain, reviewed here by Stef). Personally, I consider this quartet is a cousin to Peter Evans Quintet, with Ryan Driver on analog synth, Rob Clutton on bass, and Nick Fraser on drums. At first glance, and listen, the album has a distinct variation-on-a-theme aspect. Squish It! begins with Allemano unaccompanied, setting the mood, as it were, before Allemano, Clutton, and Fraser’s punchy thematic opening to “Squish It” proper. On “Squish It Now,” Fraser plays foil to Allemano early on, with crisp snare and trumpet describing arcs along the melodic path. Meanwhile, Clutton moves laterally through the music, calmly urging the group forward, then suddenly dropping octaves to layer in a deep, almost loamy richness to music.

“Squish It Nicely” highlights Driver’s fascinating synth with Allemano’s more experimental playing. Having spent time abroad studying with Axel Dörner, Allemano’s techniques are amplified (or, more accurately, dampened) by her homemade mutes. Most of the track reads as an negative exposure of “Squish It Now,” with Clutton and Fraser hanging back for most of its runtime.

Allemano and Driver play a fantastic duet, augmented by Fraser’s spacious interpolations, on “Squish It Forever.” As a group, Titanium Riot plays with space and dynamics in fascinating ways, reminding me at points of some John Stevens’s Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Allemano is in peak form here, with a remarkably piercing yet languid melodic line. One last time, on “Squish It Again,” the thematic explorations are flipped on their head. This closing statement also serves to close the loop of the album, with Titanium Riot recapitulating some of the ideas surfaced in “Squish It” and “Squish It Now.” My 2017 favorites list did not include this album, only because I had not fully caught up with it. It’s a remarkable set, and very highly recommended.