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Album Review

Rempis / Abrams / Ra + Jim Baker: Scylla

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Rempis / Abrams / Ra + Jim Baker: Scylla
Avreeayl Ra sets the tone for this entire live set as his voice and mbira open Scylla, "this is for all the survivors." According to Greek mythology Scylla was a beautiful woman who turned into a monster with four eyes and six long snaky necks with heads, each containing three rows of shark's teeth and 12 tentacle legs plus six dog's heads wrapped her waist. Recorded deep into the Covid-19 pandemic, in July 2021, at Chicago's Elastic Arts, one would not be wrong to equate "survivors" with any of a number of tragedies from cancer to domestic violence, institutional racism and, of course, the virus that upended all civilization.This improvised set follows Ra's declaration and, for the most part, treads softly amongst the the multi-headed monsters.

The trio of Dave Rempis (he switches between alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones), bassist Joshua Abrams, and drummer & percussionist Avreeayl Ra, who plays wooden flute and thumb piano, has released three previous discs on Rempis' Aerophonic label, Aphelion (2014), Perihelion, (2016), and Apsis (2019). The last two included piano and electronics wizard Jim Baker, but Rempis and Baker's relationship has a longer history. They worked together in various Ken Vandermark projects and Rempis' quartet from the early 2000s.

After the brief opener, the quartet delivers two lengthy improvisations, "Between A Rock" and "Viscosity." While there is no written score here, credit to the musicians, both tracks succeed as complete pieces. There is a melancholy feel to "Between A Rock," with Rempis blowing long bluesy tones as the others scatter notes across an even-tempered yet persistent sound stage. Even when the energy ramps up, it is not for long. The quartet seems set on performing an epic poem here, its message only discoverable when one settles in to absorb and assimilate the sound. Baker switches from piano to synthesizer for "Viscosity," and the atmosphere gets a bit more spectral. The music explores eerie boundaries with arco bass, mallet pulse, upper register saxophone, and squiggly electronic eel sounds, creating a dream state, one that can wish the six-headed Scylla into oblivion.

Track Listing

Survivors; Between A Rock; Viscosity.

Personnel

Dave Rempis: saxophone; Joshua Abrams: bass, acoustic; Avreeayl Ra: drums; Jim Baker: piano.

Album information

Title: Scylla | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Aerophonic Records

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