The astonishing Inner Constellation Volume One most definitely qualifies as difficult music. Not due to normal reasons including complexity, intricacy, abrasiveness or lack of musical touchstones, but rather that the title track, at forty-seven-plus minutes, needs to be listened to in toto.
Guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil has much to say about the compositional impulse and structure of the work, from the techniques employed to the emotions and atmosphere he desires to present to the listener. All of this information is fine, and much of it in retrospect becomes audible and validated through multiple listenings.
It is the sound, however, and the sheer energy and intelligence behind it all, that makes this record something in which to rejoice. From the first gnarly Stratocaster guitar riffs, this piece just does not let go, and as spaces are being filled and emptied and textures actually felt, the music is alive and breathing. Rhythms coalesce, pick up steam and affect the body, only to drift away. Independent instrumental lines fly apart and come together, creating aural densities and mental colors. Images abound independent of evocative titles given to the track points. Breathless, and possibly shell-shocked after the experience, the impulse is to immediately hit replay.
Eisenbeil is quick to credit the members of his sextet for the final shape of the work. The band learned their parts by ear, using the score as a map offering signposts. Each band member clearly relishes playing this music, with past experiences well-preparing him/her for this kind of structured freedom.
Violinist Jean Cook, recorded far left, is as sharp as a tack and her sound is felt surrounding the others as much as being an individual line. Alto saxophonist Aaron Ali Shaikh and trumpeter Nate Wooley share the right channel, as often creating their parts together as separately, throwing fire bolts into the mix. The rhythm section of bassist Tom Abbs and drummer Nasheet Waits are in the center rear of the mix, constantly shifting the pulse and feel, either pushing and pulling the music or keeping the fires burning.
In the middle and directly in front is Eisenbeil, who sounds as if he can barely contain himself with rapid fire notes, string sounds and chordal strumming that flies up and down the neck. He clearly leads the band, but he can also be heard reveling in what is happening by how he responds.
Not to be forgotten, there are three discreet tracks after this whirlwind. Each about three minutes and exploring a completely different mood, with Eisenbeil's typical intensity.
Thrilling, exhausting, uplifting and energizing, Inner Constellation is music for the long haul, to be savored again and again as music for the body and the mind. Unforgettable from its first minutes, it will never let go and is most definitely one of the best releases of 2007.
Track Listing: Inner Constellation: Autumn Light, Elastic Horizon, Enter Fresh Juicy, Three Uninvited Guests, Clinging Fire,
Being Drawn, Phat on the Runway, Effigy, Totem, Mask in Profile, Triple Astra Texture, Walkabout,
Transformation, Death Once Dead, No Dying Then, Dream Breath, Richter Smears, Spiral Blue, Wormhole
Thief, Red Pepper Pods, Add Wings to Them, Dragonfly, Eucalyptus, Spice Enters the Groovy Night, Autumn
Clouds, Burning Nest, Keeping Still Mountain, Inner Constellation, Sonic Ocean; Rain in the Face; Cues to the
Vagabond; Receding Storm.
Personnel: Bruce Eisenbeil: acoustic and electric guitars; Jean Cook: violin; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Aaron Al Shaikh: alto sax;
Tom Abbs: acoustic bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.