How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Portuguese bassist Hugo Carvalhais creates a highly personal musical universe on this, his sophomore release. His compositions draw inspiration from the American free jazz of the sixties, the sonic experimentalism of saxophonist John Zorn
, and European chamber jazz, but do not surrender to any of these formative influences. Furthermore, Carvalhais chooses a distinct sonic structure for his band. He occupies the lower register with his bass, expanding it with delicate use of electronics and leaving only a narrow upper spectrum for soprano saxophonist Emile Parisien
. This choice gives the compositions a unique openness, freedom and unpredictable spirit.
The nine compositions do not decipher easily. The energetic and tight interplay of "Flux" accumulates patiently until Parisien's surprising contemplative solo shifts the energetic flow to a slower course. The spare atmosphere of "Chrysalis" revolves around light touches of violin, double bass, piano and drums, with no attempt to gravitate these parallel sonic orbits. The fleeting melodic theme of "Simulacrum" appears only in the middle of what sounds like an open-ended improvisation, but then resurfaces again as an accompaniment to pianist Gabriel Pinto's improvisation.
The lyrical side of "Capsule," suggested by Pinto (on piano) and Pifarély, collides with Pinto on organ, with drummer Mário Costa's disjointed patterns and Carvalhais' eerie electronics. On "Omega," Pinto is determined to sketch a clear ballad structure while the others are focused on separate, thoughtful sonic searches. "Madrigal" stresses the five musicians' continuously creative and playful exchange of ideas. Carvalhais and Pinto explore and exchange newfound sounds on their short duet, "Cortex."
The last two compositions offer another compositional approach. Both "Generator" and "Amniotic" possess clearer thematic structures, close and supportive interplay and distinct luminous sound that becomes lighter and purified on "Amniotic."
In his liner notes, writer Stuart Broomer calls Carvalhais "an architect of absence." Carvalhais structures a unique experience that leaves a central role for which to find a place within the constantly changing focus of Carvalhais' beautiful musical universe.