Across their discography, Angles 9
constantly evoke powerful emotions through finely-tuned chaos. In the near-traditional jams of 2014's Injuries
and the abstract noise of 2017's Disappeared Behind the Sun
, the sheer kinetic energy of nine gifted players, led by saxophonist Martin Kuchen
, working together while competing for a moment in the spotlight, creates unique and spellbinding recordings. Beyond Us
is another great example of Angles 9's craft, fusing unlikely styles to create their most refreshing and evocative album yet. Although the band does not reach the heights of abrasive discordance that appeared on Disappeared Behind the Sun
, Beyond Us
delivers some of their most unsettling songs, subtly crafting oppressive moods through highly dynamic structures.
After an opening assault of wailing saxophone, "Samar & the Egyptian winter" settles into a despondent, skeletal groove, complemented by regal chords from their horn section. Later Angles 9 recontextualizes this progression, quietly bringing out its tragic mood while transitioning into the track's midsection, a barren stretch of soft piano and trumpet. Once the full band returns, after a slow build of furious horns and rolling piano chords, for a final swell of chaos, "Samar & the Egyptian winter" completes its solemn, dirge-like soundscape, realized over more than 12 minutes.
"Against the permanent revolution" begins with a steady piano groove just as dark as the one at the core of "Samar," with a guttural saxophone providing a menacing foundation for the rest of Angles 9. The band never falls away to showcase a new solo or layer, instead gradually piling on, developing the track's arid and intimidating atmosphere. The track closes with a flurry of dissonance, as each layer of horns spirals off from the main melody into frenetic improvisation. Beyond Us
contrasts its oppressive midsection with some of Angles 9's most fun and energetic compositions yet. The opening title track, "Beyond us," is continually driven by a deep unified layer of bass and piano, creating a simple groove the rest of the band builds onto. Despite its minor key, the track's energy and charisma are undeniable, especially in its bright shout chorus. The track's persistent repetition makes it just as easy to zone out and soak in the music as it is to dissect the masterful musicianship on display in the solos and arrangement.
The album's closing track, "Mali," is easily the most celebratory, where each earworm hook over the propulsive drum groove is followed by jubilant unified horn stabs. As the midsection's trumpet solo builds, the band's excited chatter rings out over their instruments before they suddenly drop away, revealing a new sequence of rhythmic horns that effortlessly flows back into the track's original groove. After a climactic trumpet solo, the last hook blends the track's motifs together, creating an unbridled fever-pitch before one last burst of jubilant chaos, a fitting send-off for this gripping, unpredictable album.
The sounds of a studio audience cheering and applauding can often be distracting on an album, but after every track on Beyond Us
, those reactions are deserved. The only appropriate reaction to Angles 9's best material to date is unbridled praise.