Friday, September 18, 2020

Dan Weiss Starebaby - Natural Selection (Pi-Recordings, 2020)

Natural Selection takes up where drummer and composer Dan Weiss left off with 2018's Starebaby, melding metal, math/prog rock, mid-1970's dark Miles and modern jazz into a potent and unexpected potion. He is joined on this album by Ben Monder on guitar, Trevor Dunn on bass, and Matt Mitchell and Craig Taborn on keyboards, electronics and piano. They open with "Episode 18" which develops a complex progressive rock vibe that includes spacey areas to build an interesting dynamic flow with music that is exciting if a bit imposing. Thick layers of sound are built upon, electronic and percussive with the speed reaching hyperkenetic levels. Monder's guitar breaks out for a late solo before the musicians come together for a towering climax and long fade. "Dawn" changes the pace with brushed percussion and piano weaving together before gradually getting faster and more intense. Long electronic tones beam out along side bass and drums and smear in space arming electric piano and bass. Galloping drums and guitar usher in "The Long Diagonal" adding in keyboards and loping bass to fill out the sound. The music is in constant motion, whether shifting to acoustic piano and drums or back to a powerhouse guitar solo, back to slinging some more head-spinning piano and elastic bass. "A Taste of a Memory" slows the tempo even further, opening quietly with spare, pale sounding piano. After a few minutes the music begins to unfold episodically, with gritty guitar and drums coming to the forefront, and electronics cascading in flourishes. Weaving back to an acoustic piano focus, the music slows again before developing groove and punch for the finale. The leader's drums develop deeply rhythmic energy on "Bridge of Trust" with synth and piano joining, creating some interesting electro-acoustic textures where the weight and tone of the electronics shift to an intricate and interplanetary improvisation. "Accina" finds the piano and drums developing a shimmering sound signature, followed by a head-snapping switch to a crushing rock-like sound, dynamic changing trough tempo and sheer heft. Monder's guitar snakes out on patrol with a laser like tone amid long electronic sounds and hard drums. This as another lengthy performance that moves trough many moods including a piano trio conclusion. The final performance on the album is "Head Wreck" which presents a track of grinding jazz rock to form a fine bookend with the opening track. They balance darkness and light deftly here where acoustic piano and electric guitar, using pounding piano, scouring electronics leading to a caustic full band interplay that is very hot, with drums of imposing force as an exclamation point. This was a very creative and fearless album from a great group of musicians, who recorded this music right after a series of live engagements and were able to carry that spontaneity into theses sessions. Anybody with an interest in forward thinking or experimental music whatever the genre would do well to check this recording out. Natural Selection -

Send comments to Tim.