408

Ben Monder: Oceana

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Ben Monder: Oceana As much an experience in hypnotic textures as a voyage through aquatic depths, Ben Monder's Oceana captures an essential mood and holds it for a full seventy minutes. That's no small feat, but the guitarist wisely works with four other talented musicians who ably intuit his vision in order to help make it happen. Notably absent from this effort is drummer Jim Black, who appeared on Monder's four previous releases, but Ted Poor steps in and provides the right combination of texture and accent.

Monder starts this collection of seven original pieces with the clean solo guitar "Still Motion," which sets the pace and the tone for the record. Arpeggiated chords and unison tones hold down a shifting net of sound that floats and sinks, eerily washing over the scene and advancing with a sort of tidal motion toward a brief, stark single-note conclusion. Theo Bleckmann, whose wordless vocal style emphasizes pure melody over flash and bang, provides a brief minute of church-like "Light" before the rest of the group kicks in on the title track.

Once the bass and drums emerge, "Oceana" provides a highly polyrhythmic, nearly syncopated dreamscape that reappears later on the recording. This piece is light years away from the traditional jazz head-solo-head format, more distinctly resembling a tone poem without much melody. In the end the compositional aspect is the single most important thing tying these pieces together, but it's sufficiently loose to allow subtle interplay and shared group momentum.

The highlight of the recording is the quartet "Echolalia," in which Bleckmann singlehandedly carries the moody melody, though he's borne forward on the backbone of interlocking instrumental interaction. Bleckmann is a rare and notable exception in the jazz vocalist world because he has turned his voice into an effective instrument with its own characteristically clean, thin resonance. If you step back for a second, you'll realize this piece is essentially a guitar trio with a singer, and in that sense it becomes a song, but not without the accumulating residue of woozy greyness that envelops the whole album.

Another long solo guitar piece provides an extended interlude before Monder fuzzes up his tone for the dark, rumbling prog-rock "Rooms of Light" and returns to uneasy calm for the ethereal "Spectre." The very lack of resolution that marks the end of the album is what characterizes it throughout, helping distinguish Oceana as a truly exceptional disc that cannot and should not be categorized.


Track Listing: Still Motion; Light; Oceana; Echolalia; Double Sun; Rooms of Light; Spectre.

Personnel: Ben Monder: guitar; Theo Bleckmann: voice; Kermit Driscoll: bass (3, 4); Skuli Sverrisson: bass (5, 6); Ted Poor: drums.

Title: Oceana | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Ballet: The Music Of Michael Gibbs CD/LP/Track Review Ballet: The Music Of Michael Gibbs
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 23, 2017
Read Float The Edge CD/LP/Track Review Float The Edge
by John Sharpe
Published: July 23, 2017
Read Resonance CD/LP/Track Review Resonance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 23, 2017
Read Black Focus CD/LP/Track Review Black Focus
by Rokas Kucinskas
Published: July 23, 2017
Read Birdhoused CD/LP/Track Review Birdhoused
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 22, 2017
Read "Ziljabu Nights - Live at Theater Gutersloh" CD/LP/Track Review Ziljabu Nights - Live at Theater Gutersloh
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 22, 2017
Read "Of The Night" CD/LP/Track Review Of The Night
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 28, 2016
Read "Vit" CD/LP/Track Review Vit
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 7, 2017
Read "No Filter" CD/LP/Track Review No Filter
by Mark F. Turner
Published: January 11, 2017
Read "Kingdom" CD/LP/Track Review Kingdom
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 20, 2017
Read "Lantern" CD/LP/Track Review Lantern
by John Kelman
Published: June 26, 2017

Support All About Jazz: MAKE A PURCHASE  

Support our sponsor

Upgrade Today!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.

Donate!