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Totem>: Solar Forge (2008)

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Totem>: Solar Forge How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

This is by no means an ordinary trio. Totem> is comprised of guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil, bassist Tom Blancarte and drummer Andrew Drury, all three coming from the forward thinking, left-of-center scene of New York improvisers. But it's not only their sense of risk-taking and openness that differentiates Totem> from other trios, but their ability to formulate a new sonic language, not only by experimenting and broadening the timbral palette of their instruments but also by offering a clear and well articulated vision.

All four compositions were captured live, without edits and credited to each trio member. The three instrumentalists seem to dissolve into what we may think as conventional roles of guitar, bass and drums. Each can produce percussive sounds, stress the individuality of their instruments, accentuate rhythms and improvise on themes that they contribute. The sonic envelope of this trio is actually infinite, as it moves in a vertical manner and surges inside its loose contours, horizontally.

Such an attitude dictates dense and powerful soundscapes as the musicians seem to be all over their instruments, even in the sparest moments. But this density does not mean chaotic interplay. There is also a definite sense of urgent flow and pulse amid the jangled and thorny sounds that engulfs the pale contours of these sonic structures. Along the way the music blurs the lines between jazz and other genres, mainly experimental rock—the outcome often borders with low drones of metal endeavors but never loses its substantive core to ethereal sound wandering.

Such a nuanced and careful sonic experiment is offered on the open-ended and abstract "Austenized" and on the final track "Annealed," where snippets of metallic sounds keep pulsating in trio's unique slow burn. The opening track "Blooming Ore" and "Hephaestus Wrath" stress a more provocative rhythmic exploration of timbres.

Solar Forge is very impressive in its boldness, conviction and execution, but clearly not for the faint of heart.


Track Listing: Blooming Ore; Austenized; Hephaestus' Wrath; Annealed.

Personnel: Bruce Eisenbeil: guitar; Tom Blancarte: bass; Andrew Drury: drums.

Record Label: ESP Disk

Style: Modern Jazz


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