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Album Review

ReDiviDeR: Mere Nation

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ReDiviDeR: Mere Nation
It may be disappointing to enigmatologists that there are no palindromes or obvious anagrams from ReDiviDeR on its third Diatribe Records release, following Never Odd Or Even (2011) and I Dig Monk, Tuned (2013). Musicophiles, however, should be delighted, for like its predecessors, Mere Nation is a colorful box of delights. Rambunctious, brooding and tender in turn, drummer Matthew Jacobson's compositions explore a heady no man's land between discipline and freedom.

Thirteen years into ReDiviDeR's trajectory, Jacobson, alto saxophonist Nick Roth, electric bassist Derek Whyte and trombonist Colm O'Hara have developed a deeply intuitive language. "I'm Benter," with its multiple-part unison lines, deep bass ostinatos, two-horn attack and propulsive drumming, provides the basic template, but Jacobson's compositions are never entirely predictable. "Cicaplast," which starts from a place of brooding introspection, is characterized by droning harmonics and softly voiced lyricism, gradually inhabiting a more energized space where interlocking horns take wing on dynamic rhythmic currents.

On "Tricky," Jacobson and Whyte's probing rhythms provide the fulcrum, allowing Roth and O'Hara to revel in the freedom. A change of pace, with Jacobson reverting to brushes, steers Roth down a more lyrical path. The transitions in ReDiviDeR's narratives, however, are generally amorphous. Lead and comping lines are not always clearly defined—and not just between the two horns. Tempo, rhythm, melody and harmony, all fade in and out of the foreground as one atmosphere replaces another. The distinctions between surface and underbelly in ReDiviDeR's world are tantalizingly hazy.

From the abstract opening of the tone poem "Grove Park"—where Morse code-like pulses, crying cymbals, drones and restless fluttering intermingle—a spare bass ostinato and pattering brushes redirect the quartet into a more defined space. On this tender passage, saxophone slowly weaves a graceful course, with trombone switching quietly between rhythmic and harmonic roles. All four musicians then explore their respective paths, but so attuned is each to the prevailing meditative mood that the effect is quite hypnotic.

"Haiku" is a fascinating tale of infectious, modulating grooves, riffs transferred and overlapping melodic lines. And like the best tales, it initially intrigues, gradually seduces, and then completely hooks. Jacobson comes into his own here as the music unfolds and intensifies, unleashing a polyrhythmic torrent of terrific intensity that flows until the quartet convenes in a tightly unified closing statement.

Within Mere Nation's multi-layered textures resides a beguiling hybrid of simplicity and complexity, tunefulness and adventure. A powerful recording from a group that continues to build on something special.

Track Listing

I’m Benter; Cicaplast; Tricky; Opener; Grove Park; Haiku.

Personnel

Matthew Jacobson: drums; Nick Roth: saxophone, alto; Colm O'Hara: trombone; Derek Whyte: bass, electric.

Album information

Title: Mere Nation | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Diatribe Records

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