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The Remote Viewers: Low Shapes in Dark Heat

Robert Spencer By

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The Remote Viewers are a saxophone trio: Adrian Northover on soprano and alto, Louise Petts on alto (plus voice and synthesizer) and David Petts on tenor sax (and synthesizer). On Low Shapes in Dark Heat they play postmodern jazz, powered by techno rhythms. All three of them are clearly excellent instrumentalists. Here they are interested in exploring a postpunk, postfree aesthetic that has tremendous influence over their sound.

The opening track, "What the Building Wants," has the trio playing close together and close apart, a la ROVA. They do this throughout the disc, as on the spare "Sogno Nostalgico - Callan TV Theme." "Unapproached" contains some impressive unison work, with individual voices unfolding from the group nicely. There is intricate dialogue among the saxophones, with an interesting exchange of lead and supporting voices. "It Was a Very Good Year" is virtually unrecognizable, but virtuosic. "The Gap's Defense" is built from intriguing harmonies.

The texture shifts with their cover of Sun Ra's "Astro Black" is powered by a tense synthesizer (sounding like a bass) ostinato and reed squeals, underneath Louise Petts' eerie vocal. The tune fades out in a mechanistic wash. The synthesizer sounds like an organ on the immediately following "Held By Rooms," where Louise sounds no less eerie but somewhat wistful. "Slanted by Strain" expands this mood. "One Thousand Unnamed Flowers" features one reed (David Petts, I'll venture) growling over an increasingly ominous background. The title tune also sets the querulous tenor against an increasingly ominous held tone from the other reeds. "Ominous" is the key word here.

Low Shapes in Dark Heat is certainly informed by the latest trends in non-jazz music. Is it the shape of jazz to come?

Title: Low Shapes in Dark Heat | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Leo Records

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