FOR HIS first full length album, keyboardist/composer and key Loop Collective member Dan Nicholls has created a stimulating soundscape, drawing together samples and field recordings with performances from an outstanding line-up of fellow jazz instrumentalists.
‘Ruins’, focusing on Nicholls’ reaction against “the mass media’s repeated and predictable imagery of disaster” presents, as one might imagine, writing and improvisation with an ominous sense of urgency and energy. The result is a dynamic, engaging project which holds together well as a continuous concept, developing through constantly shifting timbres, patterns, rhythms and urban allusion.
Assembled here (with Nicholls on pianos, keyboards and electronics) are sax and clarinet masters Shabakah Hutchings, James Allsopp and Tom Challenger, along with the excellent Dave Smith on drums and Kit Downes providing trademark Troyka-style organ stabs and bass-end depth.
A few pointers as to what to expect:
Building from the introductory news soundbites and mounting foreboding of ‘Blinkers’, complex overlapping phrases of ‘Chaos Happens’ (a representation of riots and public uprisings) create an agitated momentum – with a central, free-improvised section between clarinets – complete with symbolic wailing sirens. A compelling and intoxicating mix.
Wasteland-suggesting electronics and desolate reeds establish the title track, moving into a brilliant process-driven groove reminiscent of Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin (particularly with Hutchings’ eloquent bass clarinet), leading directly to the haunting, echoic ‘Missing in Action’ in dedication to war journalists killed in crossfire.
A curious, eerie and percussive ‘toy piano’ introduces ‘Withdrawal’, which grows into another intricate and hypnotic groove led by Hutchings and Allsopp, and a great combination of reverbed Rhodes soloing over organ and solid drums. ‘Voice Intercepts’ is characterised by pulsating staccato contributions from all players to suggest the intended ‘telephone hacking’ theme, giving way to the late-e.s.t. weightlessness of the closing ‘idontknow’.