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Friday, May 3, 2024

Sally gates, Trevor Dunn, Greg Fox – Deliriant Modifier (Riverworm Records, 2023)

By Matty Bannond

The human brain makes a lot of predictions. When life contradicts those forecasts, it unleashes a variety of physical and emotional responses. A trio of high-profile improvisors explores the depth and breadth of those reactions in this ten-track album. It’s improvised but controlled by hard parameters such as time limits. Like a spider trapped in a bathtub. Or three spiders.

Sally Gates is at the heart of most songs for most of that allotted time. The guitarist is a regular co-creator in New York’s experimental scene and leads the avant-rock trio Titan to Tachyons, who released their 2022 album Vonals on Tzadik. She adds piano to a couple of tracks too. Trevor Dunn plays contrabass, with Greg Fox on drums and synth. Both names are familiar to free jazz fans.

It’s a record with plenty of rock-ish moments. There’s emphatic drumwork in the opening for “Dissolve and Surveil”, for example, with string-bendy guitar. Occasional thumps from acoustic bass manage to rise to the surface, but it’s one of several tracks where Dunn sinks in the sonic quicksand.

There are places where his deep voice sings loudest, however. “Nobody, and Nothing” is a spacier thing with pattering percussion and droplets of guitar that disappear and reappear like suppressed memories. Thick strings from the contrabass buzz against the fretboard. Listeners with headphones will feel notes rush down to their boots and onwards toward the planet’s core. A sensory treat.

Retinal States” kicks off with worried piano. There’s a stop-start sensation here with skittish drumming that builds with each trembling in-breath. Structures and patterns rise up and fall down. The instruments sprint into free space before slipping into deep ruts, then restarting.

Deliriant Modifier is album where impulses are let loose—but with bungee cords tugging at their shoulders. Three gifted spiders roam and race around the slippery landscape, climbing high and falling freely. It’s unpredictable music that bucks against the brain’s prophecies. How will your mind and body react?

The album is available as a digital download here.

Listen to "Nobody, and Nothing"