The collaborative Canadian quartet Song of Tales brings a unique mix of free improvisation and rock accessibility to its debut Life Is A Gong Show. Members of the ensemble have their individual styles yet they share a similar creative vision. All four are accomplished multiinstrumentalists as well as genre benders who draw from a wide range of influences in their work. All these attributes make this release intriguing.
The energetic "Non-Fiction" is an otherworldly tune with folkish overtones. Over drummer Jean Martin's rumbling percussion synths enhanced saxophonist Petr Cancura wails with gritty reverberating tones. Violinist Jesse Zubot bows out tense passionate phrases. Gradually the group exchanges become delightfully dark and dissonant, as electronics permeate the backdrop making it eerier and more ethereal.
In contrast the track that follows, "Sun Sets in the West" is languid and popish with a laid back groove and an undulating melody. Oudist and bassist Gordon Grdina adds twangy lines to the music as Cancura blows overdubbed refrains that flirt with "smooth jazz." Martin keeps the beat steady while Zubot switches to keys to provide a hypnotic mood with his resonant chords.
Elsewhere, the funky "Burning Bright" showcases the group's riotous spontaneity to a stimulating effect. Martin's propulsive beats drive a provocative repartee of honks, squawks, bent pizzicato notes and angular strums and vamps. Periodically the piece returns to the vibrant head with fiery elegance.
On the intriguing "Jojis" Grdina's oud's Levantine sounds complement his band mates' rumbling western beats. Cancura contributes blazing hot saxophone to the mix. Crystalline plucked strings make for a charmingly unusual conclusion. Immediately following this is the somber and Zen like "Cluster." A melancholic mood permeates the four-way atonal conversation replete with tolling cymbals, rustles, echoing strings and breathy woodwind.
By dynamically alternating moods and modes of expression the band keeps the performance captivating and the momentum taut. This does sacrifice a bit of thematic unity, yet the seamless synergy among the musicians makes up for it. Furthermore, the recording truly reflects the wide fluctuations of kismet especially in these trying times.
Traure; Burning Bright; Awake; Cinema; Jojis; Cluster; Non-Fiction; Sun Sets in the West; Moanin'; Sideways;
Mary Go Round;