Stich Wynston's Modern Surfaces: Transparent Horizons (2005)
The intro emerges as heavy bowed bassbuzzy, ominous, sustained. Suddenly there's a thunderstorm, rock drumming, electric guitar, and tenor saxophone. A synthesizer (seldom-used here) wails, but less than the guitar and saxophone, then makes bell sounds and more while the bass goes thudding and bells like a stag before things devolve into the slower, quieter space of the original mood.
Thus develops Stich Wynston's "Outward Bound." "I Think This Party's Over" seems a faintly sardonic title for the second track's doomy storm noises, bleating tenor, and integration of textures in which it's hard to say who does what as the group surges into movement, booming backgrounds to the tenor, burgeoning guitar, and bass together in the underlying storm. Is this "party" the whole modern world?
This music favors intros. Jim Vivian's massive, buzz-edged, echoey bass, punctuated by Wynston, opens Young's "Existential Departures." Drums supply rhythmic patterns below a three-man bass cembalom imitation. A quasi-oriental theme, thundercrack drumming, bowed bass, and amplified guitar and gentler tenor slow into meditative interplay. The bass swells above, gigantic. Undramatic this ain't. The three melody instruments harmonize and play ominous lines, cut and tempered at times by crack-of-doom drumming. Superficially more playful, with a darting guitar/saxophone/bass prelude, "Surf Aces" becomes a tour-de-force upper register tenor saxophone feature. Passionate stuff.
"Spiral Nebula," with pedalled, echoing solo piano, is a firmly struck etude, three-plus minutes of European concert music. "Evanescence" opens with the three front line instruments together, intense yet again. Behind the subsequent guitar/bass duet, Wynston helps the bassist sound doomier before the tenor/bass duet lightens things a little. Wynston belabours his drum kit, like the voice of fate. Bass and drums stalk the closing guitar/tenor unison.
It's all exciting... darkness with spirit. "Caboose" is a complex work for solo percussion, preceded by a band intro. What is Wynston hitting, scratching, and playing drumrolls on (or maybe inside)? Solo percussion with tone colour? Yes! The ensemble ending is like the twanging of a vast string.
Guitar, bass and drums open "Automatic Entry," with a bow applied to the strings of the upright bass. And when guitarist Jeff Young decamps, the bass goes way, way down, rising undefeated to support a tenor excursion, with Wynston the tragedian's drums. The guitarist picks up on the tenorist's feeling for beauty in desolation, creating organ chords unaccompanied before the bass comes back from below into a mighty conclusion.
"Intergalactic Spheres" features a minotaur yowling, a sustained pedal note, and a chiming music box figure repeated and re-repeated as the saxophone rises into high weaving. "New One" hints at Bach before turning into a religious-sounding ballad a shade like Lovano/Motian/Frisell, but supercharged with gargantuan bass. The guitarist's more hymnal section suggests mainstream jazz credentials before a passage in tenor unison, in fugal business with bowed bass.
The attempted poem in the liner notes was a mistake"Oxides crisp consciousness to harmful beauty"?but not the music. The CD insert's yellow spine means that this set belongs in TCB's "contemporary series." It's music for black days, sustaining undefeated spirit: there's no discouragement here.
Track Listing: Outward Bound; I Think This Party's Over; Spiral Nebula; Evanescence; Caboose; Automatic Entry; Intergalactic Spheres; New One.
Personnel: Mike Murley: saxophones; Jeff Young: guitar; Jim Vivian: upright bass; Stich Wynston: drums, occasional piano (presumably the very occasional synthesizer too).