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Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Solo sax - The searchers - The Overview III

 Most of the music reviewed yesterday was still in the realm between modern jazz and free jazz. Today, we give you an overview of solo sax albums that go beyond style and genre, integrating electronics and studio effects. 

Bendik Giske - Cracks (Smalltown Supersound, 2021)

Norwegian saxophonist Bendik Giske works within his own musical universe, characterised by the "expressive use of physicality, vulnerability and endurance". On "Cracks" he is assisted by the studio environment set up by producer André Bratten. If I understand it well, the space is full with mics who respond to the sound of the sax, depending on Giske's position and movement in the space. 

The liner notes speak about "the new “resonant” space of Bratten’s reactive studio tuned to his original sounds. If this new studio-as-an-instrument process has brought Giske one step closer to the man-machine, it’s also a way to bridge the separation – or crack – between the two. This kind of liminal space, according to Giske, is to be treasured. “The tracks wedge themselves into the cracks of our perceived reality to explore them for their beauty,” explains Giske. “A celebration of corporeal states and divergent behaviours.” 

As a listener you get treated to some first class saxophone playing, with lots of circular breathing, which - in combination with the electronic loops, result in mesmerising soundscapes. 

Watch the beautiful "Flutter" video. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Colin Webster - Castle (Superpang, 2021)

Colin Webster treats us to a 20-minute sonic tidal wave of baritone saxophone and synth-generated loops and layers. It requires some effort to listen to this with attention, as the massive sound appears montonous at first listen yet it contains myriads of slight variations and changes. As a listener you are swept up by this, to become part of the inexorable and primal force, or possibly crushed by it. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

José Lencastre - Inner Voices (Burning Ambulance, 2022)

This is not a pure solo album, since José Lencastre plays alto and tenor with many overdubs, sounding like a quartet or more, with electronic alterations made during production. The focus is on the harmonic structures, and 'edifice' might even be a better word, because the relatively short pieces are sonic constructions with sounds produced by one musician, carefully crafted, finalised with precision. The melodies and themes have a naive quality, and could often come from simple folk songs, rather than jazz, yet they bring the polyphonic complexity of modern classical music (at times Michael Nyman comes to mind). 

The last two tracks bring a complete change in the musical environment. If the first eight tracks are compact musical jigsaw puzzles, the the last two present more open-ended improvised music that has become electronically altered with additional synth sounds. By itself both pieces are worth listening to, but the stylistic break with the rest of the album is too big to make the whole a coherent endeavour. It can be that it shows the difference between "Inner Voices" that are rational and organised (Appolonian in nature) whereas other 'inner voices' can be emotional and chaotic (Dionysan in nature). 

Whatever the reason, it is an album worth looking for. 

In light of his career in improvised music so far, this is an outlier. 


Gary Chapin said...

Great series, Stef! I listened to the Lencastre just by chance and fell in love with it, but that is a jarring shift towards the back half.