Saturday, September 14, 2013

New Atlantis Octet - Unto the Sun (NotTwo, 2013)

The New Atlantis Octet is a very exciting free-jazz mini big band that takes the precedents of the Sun Ra Arkestra and the David Murray Octets of the 1980's and blows them into orbit. Formed by Edward Rickhart on guitar and Stan Lohman on drums, the ensemble grew to employ such powerhouses as Steve Swell on trombone, Roy Campbell on trumpet, Aaron Martin on alto saxophone, Jason Ajemian and Vattel Cherry on bass and Andrew Barker on drums. On the opening track "Sekhmet" they come out of the blocks with feverish intent, featuring focused thundering drums along with snaking and snarling guitar. Powerful brass and reeds come crashing in with squalls of collective improvisation, as the band reaches for ecstatic heights. No one player dominates the band, but it is the group as a whole that makes for a roaring and riveting cacophony. The second and last piece, "Amaterasu" develops from the brass section outward with strong trumpet and trombone cutting a path though the music with Rickhart's electric guitar keeping pace. The two drummer lineup is harrowing but spectacular, driving the music relentlessly forward. Just when you think the music cannot get any more intense, the group opens up a spot for a bass solo, and the music develops a respite of relative calm before the band dynamically rebuilds for the final flourish. This was a very intense and exciting album. They build a massive edifice of sound that is punishing but also exhilarating. Within the music though, exists a very intricate web of sound that ties all of the very talented musicians together. Unto the Sun -

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