On the exquisite Walk Against Wind bassist Linda May Han Oh showcases her unique compositional style that rivals, artistically, her mastery over her instrument and her improvisational prowess. These 11 originals express various motifs reflecting Oh's diverse influences yet a delightfully dark poetry imbues all of them, giving the album its thematic unity.
The intensely cinematic "Speech Impediment," for instance, has a languid melody and shimmering refrains. Oh's Lilting, wordless vocals echo saxophonist Ben Wendel wistful lines. As the tempo picks up the tune becomes crisper and more hypnotic. Wendel and guitarist Matthew Stevens exchange thrillingly dissonant lines over drummer Justin Brown's thunderous beats and Oh's thumping bass. Brown's dynamic solo ushers in the concluding head.
Brown opens the atmospheric "Ikan Bilis" with his haunting drumming that endows the music with a primal spirituality. Pianist Fabian Almazan makes a guest appearance as he and the other band members contribute their respective introspective musings. The individual instrumental voices coalesce into a mystical and memorable ensemble performance that has an undercurrent of subtle funky rhythms. Almazan's chiming keys and Stevens' resonant notes mix in with Oh and Brown's percolating cadence to buoy Wendel's warmly wailing tenor.
Another guest, Korean traditional percussionist Minji Park, adds an Eastern touch to the expectant "Mantis" with her exotic janggu & kkwaenggwari. Oh takes center stage with complex and lyrical extemporization that is intriguingly crepuscular. Wendel's yearning, fiery phrases thrillingly contrast with the contemplative serenity of the rest of the track.
The pensive and dramatic "Deepsea Dancers" demonstrates Western Classical hints especially in the melodic fragments that are its building blocks. Stevens and Wendel alternate eloquent spontaneous monologues that are sometimes stimulatingly angular and at others elegantly fluid. Oh's muscular reverberations and Brown's soft thuds and brushing add an element of tension to the overall mood.
Walking Against Wind is a mature work that perfectly balances different musical elements. The prewritten and the spontaneously created seamlessly meld and miscellaneous inspirations fuse into a singular and sublime whole. It is Oh's best release to date and, hopefully, a sign of what is to come next.
Lucid Lullaby; Firedancer; Speech Impediment; Perpluzzle; Walk Against Wind;
Ikan Bilis; Mother Reason; Mantis; Deepsea Dancers; Midnight; Western.
Linda May Han Oh: bass, voice; Ben Wendel: saxophone; Matthew Stevens: guitar;
Justin Brown:drums; Fabian Almazan: piano (2, 6, 10); Minji Park: janggu &