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Monday, June 10, 2024

Angelica Sanchez - Chad Taylor - A Monster Is Just An Animal You Haven't Met Yet (Intakt Records, 2024) *****

By Don Phipps

Judging from the music on the album A Monster Is Just An Animal You Haven’t Met Yet, less is more. Who needs a bass and horn if art can be achieved without them? Case in point: the exuberant duo of Angelica Sanchez on piano and Chad Taylor on drums, who here provide a fascinating musical journey – one that is powerful and intricate. The two weave together music that embraces modern abstract note clusters that stretch outward without breaking apart, held in place by web-like structures found in each composition. One feels the controlled energy. Everything is on the line. Nothing is held back.

For example, the number “Animistic” offers high drama – a rolling intensity over syncopated beats. Then there’s the outstretched bluesy abstractions of “Holding Presence in Time.” And Taylor’s explosive all over drumming greets the listener on the opening of “Holding Space.” The album is chock full of these kinds of exceptional mood shifting colors and textures.

Sanchez’s piano playing is electric. She plays outside and inside the piano, creating intriguing stop-go sonic effects (for inside playing, check out the title cut and “All Alone Together,” or her harp-like ethereal strokes across the strings on “Tracers of Cosmic Space”). But what marks her brilliance is the way she spreads her left and right hands to achieve notes at both ends of the keyboard collectively or in sequence. It’s clear she relishes dissonant chords, that while hinting at formalism, are augmented with modal and bluesy qualities. And she uses her command of the instrument to create dynamic runs up and down the length of the keyboard.

Taylor’s work on the album is equally impressive. His precise use of various percussion, cymbals, and drums provide astounding counterpoint and nuance to Sanchez’s lines, and, at times, he simply takes over. His beats can be dance-like (check out “Liminal,” “Myopic Seer,” and “Threadwork”), and his cymbal work is special, sometimes sounding like great waves hitting ocean rocks. His superb footwork on the bass drum pedal and his technique on the toms and cymbals provide fluid backdrops behind Sanchez’s efforts. He even plays what sounds like a thumb piano on the title cut, using the instrument to craft a strong rhythmic motif.

The music of A Monster Is Just An Animal You Haven’t Met is packed full of spicy heat – a heat that feels alive and riveting. Sanchez and Taylor’s buoyant sonics laid atop strong rhythmic frameworks is music that demands to be heard.