With a higher profile courtesy of his membership in the Vandermark 5, saxophonist Dave Rempis has grown beyond sideman status and into a capable leader in his own right. This studio followup to his limited edition live recording Circular Logic, once again features Rempis' "percussion quartet." A smoldering session encompassing sound worlds beyond the throttling workouts one would expect from the album's title, Rip Tear Crunch contains subtle shadings and moments of introspective calm.
Bassist Anton Hatwich occupies the virtual eye of the storm, providing the melodic and rhythmic foundation for Rempis to spiral off from, floating over the polyrhythmic stew concocted by drummers Frank Rosaly and Tim Daisy (also of the Vandermark 5). Although having two drummers play opposing meters in tandem could have been a logistical nightmare, they never step on each other's toes. As such, the album never comes across as over crowded, despite the potential for sonic frenzy Rosaly and Daisy have at their disposal. At times, their contributions are sparse enough to border on the threshold of audibility. Rempis takes a cue from his employer, Ken Vandermark, expanding his arsenal to include tenor and baritone saxophone in addition to his principle horn, the alto. With nimble, fluid phrasing, his brawny baritone proves especially apposite to the ensemble's more aggressive passages.
With only five tunes, the record fixates on the lengthy title track as its centerpiece. The other four tunes represent relative facets of this long form composition. The opening "Shreds" is a slow burner, beginning subtly with restrained alto variations gliding over a solid bass ostinato and a nuanced web of percussion from the dual drummers. Rempis slowly builds the tension level with spiraling refrains and keening altissimo cries, kicking the piece into overdrive as the drummers thrash away in unison. Gradually the quartet drops the energy level, taking out the tune much as it began.
"Flank" and "The Rub" both build gradually from quiet AACM-like textural investigations into more meaty excursions while "Dirty Work Can Be Clean Fun" is a two minute blast of unrestrained free jazz skronk. The title track encompasses all these stylistic themes and variations over its half-hour duration. Heated moments of propulsive groove and cathartic release yield passages of austere tranquility. With no less than five distinct, dynamically varied sections, it is the album's conceptual highlight.
A mature and solid release, Rempis demonstrates a keen sensibility for leaving space in music that could easily be overburdened by endless vamping and excessive sonic clutter.