Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jim Black - Malamute (Intakt Records, 2017)

Drummer Jim Black leads a subtle and interesting new band by adding electronics to his arsenal in the company of Oskar Guojonsson on tenor saxophone, Elias Stemeseder keyboards and Chris Tordini on electric bass. Despite the amped up potential of this group, most of the music is actually quite reserved and understated, with long breathy tones of saxophone, and discreet use of electronic instruments and percussion. The music came into focus during a recent European tour where the band experimented with structures and song forms, looking to develop their own sound.  "Almost Awake" opens the album with some appropriately dreamy textures, before things start to grow organically and develop a stronger rhythmic foundation. Their sense of forward motion really begins to pick up and powers them through the rest of the performance. A splashy percussive sound in found during "Into the Pool" where Guojonsson's lighter toned saxophone weaves in and around the nervous rhythm and electronic shadings. The squiggles of the electronics are at the forefront on this selection, making for an interesting sound stage. "Just Turned Two" develops an atmospheric sensibility with ominous sounds swirling, before building to a sci-fi cinematic groove and the pace of the song waxes and wanes dynamically and unpredictably. There is an alluring choppiness to the rhythm of "Full Dish" with keyboards and bass swirling mysteriously around it, along with a soft breeze of saxophone. The music slowly gains momentum, with a galloping percussive sound juxtaposed against languid saxophone. "Plugged" has a funky groove that works well with some slashing drums and electronics and grounded saxophone that shows the band at their most effusive. The group came up with the idea of emulating mix tapes and playlists during their tour, taking an approach where the music would evolve rapidly, allowing them to structure improvisation and composition in a way that keeps the listener engaged and the band excited about the music. Malamute -

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