Even by the standards of the increasingly improvisational Babel Label, the self-titled Woven Entity
is an unusual release. With a core group of three percussionists and a bass, the Woven Entity quartet includes Lascelle Gordon, formerly with the acid jazz band, The Brand New Heavies. While Gordon doubles up on percussion and electronics, fellow percussionist Patrick Dawes and drummer Paul May stretch their limits by extending their kits to include almost anything that generates a congruent resonance. May has worked with pianist Alexander Hawkins
and Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick
, as well as working with bassist Peter Marsh who rounds out this quartet.
On six of Woven Entity
's ten tracks, the central group is augmented by one or more like-minded and more melodically functioning guests. Those fluctuations in the environment only slightly alter the overall dynamics of the music and are an additive part of the experiment. The sonic explorations that make up this collection consist of spiraling tones and drones that never approach intimidation but opt instead for multi-layered ambience with persistent but retrained beats. There are moments that bring to mind the Chicago Underground Duo
's In Praise of Shadows
(Thrill Jockey, 2006) and others that recall more complex works of Brian Eno
. None of the associations last long as Woven Entity doesn't provide so much as a hook to hang onto.
"C358X," with its combination of tinkering mechanical sounds, occasional electronics and bells, and no melody, sets the stage for much of what is to come on Woven Entity
. Particularly interesting is the way the piece exits with a very brief, low and slow rolling drum. It sounds very logical on paper but plays out in a much more quirky manner. "Me = You," "and "Naked Eye" and "This Day Will Come" similarly incorporate a wide variety of percussive effects with electronics but with snippets of melody that come and go seemingly unrelated to each other. What becomes clearer as the album continues is that Woven Entity is building up to an organic sound that is musical without much of the typical structure. Wood blocks, cups and sticks add an organic sound and feel and nicely compliment the traditional drum kit.
On the very experimental "So Black Dada," Alan Wilkinson's alto sax provides the first instance of an expanded melody. Like most of the pieces on Woven Entity
, it is a moderate tempo with a set of musical ideas that are presented briefly, disappearing as quickly as a brain-storming session. "Hola" opens with an underlying Caribbean percussion flavor and appropriate bird sounds then settles back into a slow paced percussion ensemble. Whirring, buzzing, clicking sounds open "Earth/Crisis" with a bit of sax, scraping bass and cymbals trading places and sometimes colliding. The sax feels wholly improvised and leans toward free jazz with a seeming lack of alignment to the drums. Simulations and samples of the natural environment represent one of the more successful elements in Woven Entity's ability to tell a story when there is no clear sequence of events to follow.
"Who's Who" is dark and ominous, breathing with tension through the presence of Julie Kjaer's flute; it is the most melodic of the pieces on Woven Entity
though still very loosely structured. "Moors & Oradandas"with its spacey openingquickly transitions to more mechanical sounds. Marsh's bass is more dominant here than in the other pieces on the album. It creates a quiet, brooding atmosphere that underlies a machine-driven pulse and the contrast is stimulating.
The dominance of percussion doesn't restrict the tonal palette or become excessively hectic nor is there an overall free jazz sensibility, though the pieces lack the sense of being overly constructed. The more deliberate pacing creates the illusion that these pieces have a specific destination in mind but they are circular in nature , bringing in brief lapses of melodicism as interstitials in an tentative liquid soundscape. Woven Entity
performs differently than a lot of experimental jazz; it's challenging and interesting and reveals more with repeated listening.
C358X; Me = You; Naked Eye; This Day Will Come; So Black Dada; Hola; Trissh; Earth/Crisis; Who’s Who; Moors and Orandas.
Lascelle Gordon: percussion, electronics; Patrick Dawes: percussion; Paul May: drums; Peter Marsh: bass; Ben Cowen: keyboards, electronics (1, 5, 7); Julie Kjaer: alto saxophone, flute (3, 8, 9); Alan Wilkinson: alto saxophone (5).