How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The eleven tracks here seem to be painted as much as played and the music is sometimes about effects as much as notes. The sequential numbering of these spare compositions, all penned by guitarist/ leader Chris Welcome, recalls the method of numbering paintings in a series, thus underscoring the artistic parallel.
The songs revolve mostly around the sax work of Jonathan Moritz, whose brooding ruminations on soprano and tenor unfold slowly while Welcome, bassist Shayna Dulberger and drummer John McLellan fill the spaces on the canvas behind him with spirited, laconic riffs. For his part, Moritz sometimes breathes into his mouthpiece for effect before playing and his clever use of harmonics, the upper register and atonality serve as the album's thematic foundation.
There are a few moments, however, when the band falls into more conventional playing. "#4" has a free jazz bent that recalls Ornette Coleman; Welcome plays rapid-fire riffs like a man unshackled, his single note lines sounding sharp enough to break the strings. On "#3" Moritz' skyscraping soprano mimics a flute and Dulberger's arco on "#8+15+6" moans somewhere between an Indian raga and a Tibetan monk chant. These moments of inventive mimicry widen the scope of the performances and raise the album above the level of plainness.
The atmosphere ranges from somber to lively to almost forbidding. The songs are carefully crafted and played by a group of distinct and talented musicians who manage to convey their unique and cohesive message amidst the mysterious, stark landscapes.