4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This has all developed from Ben Davis's original septet which featured a band that combined a string quartet with a Jazz trio/quartet. Davis himself, as main composer/arranger, switches between the two forms when he plays Cello. He is as happy in a small Jazz group as he is in a string quartet.
Now shorn of the Jazz reeds from the septet, this group has a purer vision, which is quite austere in sound - just acoustic stringed instruments and drums/percussion. There are times - like on track 4 "Slopes" that this sounds like classical chamber music. But generally the rhythm section of bass and drums inject the grooves and take us into modern Jazz territory. The first track starts the album with as much dissonance as possible, asserting that we are in "Free Jazz" territory of artists like Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler.
As the album develops though we get more modern grooves and more arrangements - with the strings providing the harmony, there is a need for order, or it would all become quite messy. As it is, the moments of harmony shine though as beacons of tonality, to allow the listener points of reference and the subtle grooves draw you in. This is by no means easy listening, but it's also not relentlessly dissonant and intense.
Dissonance is often ordered into compelling grooves - like track 5 "Scam" - where the massed strings scrape and scream, but in a manner which is distinctive to this group. In an era of electronic compression and digital recording - they remind us that the raw sound of bow scraped on strings is not to be tamed and can still shock and surprise us.
Double bass and drums are the key to what makes this a compelling record and anything with Seb Rochford is always going to be at least interesting. It is good to have a record where you can hear the drums so clearly and every instrument has its true acoustic sound laid bare - as there are no chordal instruments to fill up all the spaces and there is room for everything to be heard.
This is quite unlike anything else in Jazz and possibly an acquired taste, but given a few listens, you start to wonder why there aren't more groups using this kind of sound palette and everything else starts to sound cluttered by comparison.