American free improvisational trio Odd Circus have carved a name for themselves within their chosen operational sphere over a last couple of years that has seen the artist garner praise from all quarters; This praise has been much deserved, and it is possible to see that happy relationship between artist and critic continuing with the release of a new quartet of pieces under the Arch Nova banner.
Somewhat apart from many other artistes performing in a similar area, Odd Circus seeks to engage the listener by framing their improvisational pieces within a concept, or story; the listener of course is at liberty to embrace or ignore such a concept as they see fit; this reviewer was not so interested in that angle of the creative process, but accepts that as an ‘entry point’ for listeners not so concerned with technique and composition the device may work well. Whilst artistes like Odd Circus clearly exist on the fringe of mainstream musical activity there should be no barriers to them making their music available to the widest possible audience.
The four pieces presented as Arch Nova are formed from sessions recorded live last year and present the listener with a range of styles that encompass everything the phrase ‘free improvisation’ might suggest. At the heart of this is the relationship between the major instrumental components of Saxophone, Bass and Drums; The rhythmic pulse of the recordings is remarkably consistent and much more as would be expected of a rock recording; this basis provides a canvass over which the saxophone becomes the creative mainspring, augmented by effects which doubtless reinforce the science-fiction concepts of dystopia and horror. At it’s most compelling, perhaps as the piece named Wasteland reaches it’s climax, the listener experiences the full force of the artistic vision of the trio. Tension is built and eventually released as the intensity of the performance is brought to a head; here the free jazz of Brötzmann and, perhaps, Zorn, with, almost imperceptibly, undertones of The Five, is brought to the world of what might be termed the ‘power trio’ with remarkable success.
Whilst the reviewer accepts that this recording is not what most readers of this publication might listen to habitually, it is recommended as an interesting example of a different style of performance and compositional excellence that they may find themselves enjoying nonetheless.
Arch Nova releases on June 25th.