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Thursday, August 25, 2022

Anteloper - Pink Dolphins (International Anthem, 2022)

By Lee Rice Epstein

Readers will likely have seen the news that jaimie branch died earlier this week. Probably, like many of you, I dove back into albums and videos of Branch performing, and during a Constellation livestream, after explaining that FLY or DIE II was about more than simply the Trump administration, that the group was addressing issues far bigger than one person’s misdeeds, she said something that got right to the heart of things: “We gotta fix this shit and take care of each other. How? I think we make music like this.” The rest is on us, to keep the lamp lit, keep making music, and keep lifting each other up.

* * *

If, as they described them, the first Anteloper albums are a “proof of concept,” then jaimie branch and Jason Nazary’s newest is more like signed, sealed, delivered. On Pink Dolphins, branch, Nazary, and the newly added Jeff Parker go hard in a swinging, swirling darkmagusaqueminibioaquadoloop fashion. The album is a trip, and also a journey, with branch and Nazary extending a line that runs from Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell, to Lester Bowie and Philip Wilson, all the way through to Wadada Leo Smith’s many drummer duos. As we’ve noted here before, branch is one of the most diverse and innovative trumpet players on the scene, and Nazary is an equal in every way.

From the opening, there’s a brand new, heavy sound, informed as much by Parker’s role as producer as by Nazary and branch’s ever-expanding palettes. On “Earthlings,” branch lays down a smooth vocal line over a trip-hop inflected beat and highly addictive trumpet melody. It’s the kind of track that would have landed on a hundred mixtapes 25 years ago; today, it’s likely to play on a thousand streaming playlists. The retro vibe is a shimmery top layer, the depths reveal dozens of cracked loops and punchy synths. There’s an undeniable, self-acknowledged punk vibe, an aesthetic that extends to the delightfully neon artwork..

With Parker at the helm, Anteloper shows again how they’re something of a next-gen Chicago Underground, subtly reflected by Taylor’s mbira on the superb “Delfin Rosado.” The sonic depth of “One Living Genus,” which effortlessly unfolds over 15 glorious minutes, is reminiscent of Age of Energy, Mazurek and Taylor’s 2012 album. Nazary unhurriedly folds in kick drums and toms, as synth waves rise up. The back half of the song evokes Art Ensemble of Chicago’s unique uses of drone and space to explore a number of different textures, with branch’s trumpet flowing through like an independent current in the river. “One Living Genus” is, in some ways, the truest display of Anteloper’s unique take on electro-acoustic improvised jazz; there are few players aside from branch, Nazary, and Parker who are breaking through the boundaries of improvisation with such exciting results.

Available on black and limited-edition “aquadelic pink” vinyl, CD and digital direct from International Anthem.

“Earthlings” video

“One Living Genus” video

Anteloper live in Torino, 29 March 2022

Anteloper with the jaimie branch trio live at Roulette, 18 June 2021

Watch on YouTube: