The second Szun Waves album, New Hymn To Freedom
(The Leaf Label, 2018), was a critical smash that united fans of Radiohead and Pharoah Sanders
alike. Media types drowned in a torrent of adjectives such as gleaming, sparkling and rippling, as if the combo of brass and electronics could produce anything else. Unless, of course, it was all done adagio in a deep bass register.
For their third effort, the trio of Luke Abbott
(keys), Jack Wyllie
(sax) and Laurence Pike
(drums) offer less of a solar sphere and more of a cooling star. The vibe is perhaps more Oslo than Ibiza, more careworn, with a sense of earthy reality. Pike especially has been vocal about climate change and eco-disasters, an aspect prevalent in his solo works. However, no one in this band sounds ready to pack up and bid the planet farewell, having found a new energy to convey their concerns.
The "free" ad-libs are still key, as between them Szun Waves bring a game-like exchange of tinges and timbres, a real rainbow spectrum. But the longer gestation period this time (days not weeks, mind you) has led to a more composed approach in parts. Indeed, elements of Abbott's input are akin to the structures of an Espen Eriksen
or Bugge Wesseltoft
piece. Opening track "Exploding Upwards" has a spacey chord progression which echoes Pachelbel's "Canon In D," even holding the same tempo about 52BPM. It sets a pensive tone, so the moment when Wyllie's sax glides in is pure Jan Garbarek
for sweet sustain. Pike adds tingles of suspense and is living proof that drummers need not dictate or dominate the pace. They can add feelings and flavours akin to any euphonic instrument in the right context.
"New Universe" is danceable and fervent, but also inclines to the meditative, propelled by Pike's shamanic rhythms. With his innovation and fluidity, Pike could be a modern Jon Christensen
, the great Norwegian percussionist who was considered ECM's house drummer. One album Christensen played on, which feels like a touchstone for Earth Patterns
, was Eberhard Weber
's visionary Yellow Fields
Next up, Pike's pitching rhythm on "Garden" seems to hypnotically connect the twizzling sax and synths. "In The Moon House" has a bedrock of alarming piano, contrasted by Wyllie's leisured melody and Pike's cymbal frissons. "Be A Pattern For The World" is embraced by Abbott's psychic waves, like a stream of life, yet tagging this music in runic terms is only half the story. Even at their most godly, Szun Waves assault us with nocturnal vibrations, electric currents and cranked improvs. Maybe they get inspired by the white noise that exists around us. Certainly, some of the crumbling ambience on "Willow Leaf Pear" suggests as much, though Wyllie's sparse warbles feel lush above this.
Finally, the cosmic fuzz of "Atomkerne" is in league with a new Nordic set of fusionists, such as Lumen Drones and Rymden
. This is another piece to violate or liberate the mind, as Abbott's synths have lift-off and Wyllie spirals into a black hole. Earth Patterns
finds Szun Waves as a trio still enthralled by their own possibilities. Blending purity with ghosts and interference, this album leaves an exquisite afterglow.
Exploding Upwards; New Universe; Garden; In The Moon House; Be A Pattern For The World; Willow Leaf Pear;
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