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AERIE: Sonic

Ian Patterson By

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It is a little over two years since Ingo Hipp's pan-European quintet AERIE launched its impressive 2016 debut, Hatch & Host (Neuklang Records). Hipp's adventurous writing coupled with strong solo voices were the hallmarks of that outing, and, by and large, remain the guiding forces of SONIC. If anything, there's perhaps more emphasis on the compositional element at the expense of extended improvisations on the band's second release, with intricate unison lines, deft harmonic layers and knotty, undulating rhythms the cornerstones of the music. David Helm replaces Peedu Kass on bass, but otherwise, the line-up remains unchanged.

AERIE race out of the blocks on "Hits 100 001 stiH," Hipp's alto saxophone and Sam Comerford's tenor in scurrying unison over Matthew Jacobson's punchy polyrhythms, and staccato riffs from bass and Laurent Meteau on guitar. A brief pocket of collective repose is shattered by the horns, with Comerford's tumbling, harsh-edged solo an improvisational release in Hipp's tightly choreographed grip. In essence, this format provides the template for the album as a whole, with unison melodies, mantra-like rhythmic motifs and Jacobson's lithe rhythms punctuated by explosive bursts of individual freedom. Yet, that said, Hipp's blueprints are never entirely predictable.

Just when it seems that a handle on the complex yet visceral dynamics is within grasp, shifts in emphasis—sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic—happily upset the apple cart. For example, Laurent's raw guitar pyrotechnics on "Sonic Complete" provide release from the wickedly insistent collective rhythms, while ratcheting up the tension at the same time. "Fuchsteufelswild," with its alternatively serene saxophone harmonics and driving rhythmic melody is another tune as arresting as it is hard to pin down. Staccato rhythmic patterns and inviting, unison saxophone lines dovetail on "Bad Trash Fish," while a dreamy, bowed bass and feathery guitar passage is but a bridge to an animated finale.

"In the Dumps," is, appropriately enough, the most mellow tune of the set, the saxophones' gentle melancholy paving the way for Helm's achingly spare solo. Meteau's brooding, repetitive arpeggio is a harbinger of more anxious rhythms that duly surface, but in the end, a listless tranquillity reigns. The understated lyricism of "Monochrome," via Hipp's most ambitious blowing, reaches a more dynamic plateau, before closing abruptly. The curiously titled "Abeillmmmost," the final act in an absorbing journey, is an epic brew of dynamic contrasts that culminates in a repeated guitar-cum-saxophone motif that fades, ever so hypnotically, to nothing.

Sonic underlines Hipp's credentials as a boldly original composer and positions AERIE as one of the most exciting of the current crop of maverick European jazz bands. The music may be initially challenging for those perhaps used to straighter lines, but repeated exposure should offer up rich rewards.

Track Listing: Hits 100 001stiH; Sonic Complete; Introduction; Fuchsteufelswild; Bad Trash Fish; In the Dumps; Monochrome; Abeillmmmost.

Personnel: Ingo Hipp: alto saxophone; Sam Comerford: tenor saxophone; Laurent Meteau: guitar; David Helm: bass; Matthew Jacobson: drums.

Title: Sonic | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: QFTF

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