276

Moraine: Manifest DeNsity

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Moraine: Manifest DeNsity The place where chamber music meets the intensity and attitude of rock music has been explored, in recent years, by groups including Canada's Bell Orchestre and US-based Clogs. Add to that list Moraine, a Seattle-based quintet that, with its unorthodox line-up of violin, cello, electric guitar, bass, and drums, has plenty of attitude—and energy. This ain't your father's Ekseption, turning classical repertoire into high octane, progressive rock; this is original music touching on wealth of markers including, with guitarist Dennis Rea's clean/slap-echoed guitar, hints of surf rock. It's also, with cellist Ruth Davidson and violinist Alicia Allen, progressive contrapuntal music that, with its repetitive patterns, references minimalist composers Philip Glass and Steve Reich, but from a greater distance. But that's only two aspects of the rich and surprisingly varied Manifest DeNsity.



Less doom-and-gloom than symphonic downers Anekdoten, Moraine still occupies some of the same turf on the grungy, crunching "Kuru," with Rea's jaggedly distorted guitar and drummer Jay Jaskit's thundering drums. Without the mellotron that so defines the Swedish goth-prog band's sound, Manifest DeNsity's overall texture is, well, less dense, but the interlocking parts that periodically coalesce into a brief, head-banging theme lend a deeper complexity, making this set of 11 originals curiously compelling. There's some soloing, too, making Moraine an improvising band of no small worth, though spotlights are always brief, and tightly integrated within the group's highly structured arrangements.



Davidson's "Revenge Grandmother" begins in introspective fugue territory with its violin/cello duet, but morphs into a darker groove, where Jaskit's mallet-driven drums act as a primal, tribal force. Still, the rapidly shifting, episodic nature of the tune—a defining characteristic of the entire album, where only one song approaches the seven-minute mark and most are under five—makes it a journey that feels much longer than it is. Hints of early Henry Cow RIO cohabitate with Red-era King Crimson but, despite a predilection for the raucous, there's a quirky, idiosyncratic quality that, especially on Rea's knotty "Staggerin,'" references fellow Pacific Northwester, guitarist Bill Frisell's more oblique 1990s work with Kermit Driscoll and Joey Baron. The track even swings a little, with bassist Kevin Millard layering a walking bass line underneath Davidson's surprisingly oblique solo, and Rea's close, sophisticated voicings.



It's not the only hint of jazz to imbue Manifest DeNsity, with Rea's "Nacho Sunset" containing more than a touch of 1970s-era Jean-Luc Ponty; still, it's the guitarist's boxy, overdriven sound that largely dominates that track, as he demonstrates an ability to navigate the changes that's mirrored by Allen, whose inventive solo combines lithe linear phrases with unanticipated harmonies.



As artists lean increasingly towards eclecticism and stylistic cross-pollination, it's becoming more and more difficult to define the space a group occupies. But with its combination of rock energy, chamber classicism, and sophisticated jazz harmonies, Manifest DeNsity is simply good music—at times, great music—played by an unusually configured collective. Like a square peg and a round hole, Moraine defies reductionist categorization, other than pinpointing its general position along the broader musical continuum.

Track Listing: Save the Breeding Grounds; Ephebus Amoebus; Nacho Sunset; $9 Pay-per-View Lifetime TV Movie; Manifest Destiny; Uncle Tang's Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; Disillusioned Avatar; Kuru; Revenge Grandmother; Staggerin'; Middlebräu.

Personnel: Alicia Allen: violin; Ruth Davidson: cello; Jay Jaskit: drums; Kevin Millard: bass, baliset; Dennis Rea: guitar.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Moonjune Records | Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Cross My Palm With Silver CD/LP/Track Review Cross My Palm With Silver
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read One Minute Later CD/LP/Track Review One Minute Later
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 28, 2017
Read JK's Kamer +50.92509° +03.84800° CD/LP/Track Review JK's Kamer +50.92509° +03.84800°
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 28, 2017
Read Ephimeral CD/LP/Track Review Ephimeral
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 28, 2017
Read Fly or Die CD/LP/Track Review Fly or Die
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read Speechless CD/LP/Track Review Speechless
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 27, 2017
Read "Hot Coffey in the D – Burnin at Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge" CD/LP/Track Review Hot Coffey in the D – Burnin at Morey Baker’s...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 4, 2017
Read "Unspoken" CD/LP/Track Review Unspoken
by Andrew Luhn
Published: October 9, 2016
Read "Jazzin' Around Christmas" CD/LP/Track Review Jazzin' Around Christmas
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 8, 2016
Read "Sedimental You" CD/LP/Track Review Sedimental You
by John Sharpe
Published: March 30, 2017
Read "Ignacio" CD/LP/Track Review Ignacio
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 16, 2016
Read "Books On Tape, Vol. 2 - Standard Edition" CD/LP/Track Review Books On Tape, Vol. 2 - Standard Edition
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 17, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!