utorak, 23. rujna 2014.

Battle Trance - Palace of Wind (2014) + Travis Laplante + Little Women

Zbor tenor-saksofona prepričava drveću šumove gradske ulice.
U saksofone pušu Travis Laplante, Matthew Nelson, Jeremy Viner i Patrick Breiner.
Laplante također svira za Little Women i Ricart/Millevoi Quartet, a svira i sam.


"There's tremendous technical control behind what [Travis] Laplante does... splintering notes as if through a prism, using circular breathing for purposes of hypnotism." - The New York Times

"If you're already acquainted with Evan Parker, John Butcher, Colin Stetson, and Mats Gustafsson, you'll want to put Travis Laplante's name on your list of must-see saxophonists." - Georgia Straight

Palace of Wind is the debut full-length release from Travis Laplante's genre-defying tenor saxophone quartet, Battle Trance.
Palace of Wind is a piece that not only transcends genres, but also transcends time and space. Existing in the cracks between contemporary classical music, avant-garde jazz, black metal, ambient, and world music, Palace of Wind is an album-length composition that pushes the four saxophonists to the limit, shedding new light on the saxophone as an ensemble instrument. The players use circular breathing to build continuous, hypnotic waves of sound; multiphonics layer to create intricate textures that seem to come from an ancient time; and blisteringly fast lines seem to liquefy into each other. Unorthodox articulations and unusual fingerings are also part of the vast sonic vocabulary that the members of Battle Trance have painstakingly mastered. However, Palace of Wind isn't merely concerned with demonstrating the virtuosity of the ensemble, nor with impressing or entertaining the listener. Instead, it is meant to be a portal of resonance where there is no separation between the listener and the sound.
Battle Trance had an auspicious inception. One morning, Travis Laplante (Little Women and a trio with bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Ches Smith) literally awoke with the crystal clear vision that he needed to start an ensemble with three specific individuals: Matthew Nelson, Jeremy Viner, and Patrick Breiner. Laplante was actually unfamiliar with their work as musicians and had only a minimal relationship with them as individuals. He was also aware that a band of four tenor saxophones could be the worst idea ever. In spite of this, Laplante followed through and contacted Nelson, Viner, and Breiner. He gave them very little information beyond his morning experience But no one hesitated - the ensemble formed that evening.
Since many of the techniques used in the piece are nearly impossible to notate in traditional form, Palace of Wind was transmitted via the oral tradition. The rehearsals were much like martial arts training: intricate sounds were rigorously copied and repeated by the ensemble members until they perfected the techniques. Many hours were spent building the sheer strength required to sustain continuous circular breathing for extended periods. Likewise, a steady focus on physicality was required to repeat rapid note patterns for long periods without sacrificing speed. Palace of Wind is such a demanding composition that there is a high risk of physically burning out before the piece concludes, as once it begins there is no opportunity for rest or even a quick drink of water. There was also extensive training in dissolving the distinct individual identities of the players into the greater collective sound: The band did various long-tone exercises, similar to group meditation, the purpose being to blend together into one sound, so that the origin of the collective sound's components is completely impossible to discern - even by the members of the ensemble.
Palace of Wind does embrace both the cerebral nature of composition and the visceral act of performance, but immediately locates itself, the musicians and the audience in a purely spiritual space. It is a new kind of music and therefore modern, and yet it's absolutely primordial, the transformative act of human beings blowing air through tubes and producing something timeless. Listen - really listen - and be transformed.
Battle Trance is Travis Laplante, Matthew Nelson, Jeremy Viner, and Patrick Breiner.
Members of Battle Trance have also performed with: Tune-Yards, Little Women, Tim Berne, Gerald Cleaver, Michael Formanek, Trevor Dunn, Ingrid Laubrock, Rafiq Bhatia, Ches Smith, Steve Lehman,Weasel Walter, Mat Maneri, John Hollenbeck, Tyshawn Sorey, Peter Evans, and many others.

Imagine you’re Travis Laplante of Little Women and Ricart/Millevoi Quartet. You wake up one morning struck by the urge to contact Jeremy Viner, Matt Nelson, and Partrick Breiner — three other tenor saxophonists whose work you haven’t listened to and who you don’t know personally — and ask them if they want to form a band. You’re not sure why exactly this seems like a good idea, and you have no assurance that any of the three are going to respond, yet even with this tiny reservation, you go ahead and shoot off a round of emails, driven only by the vague feeling that you’re onto something. What this something might be you can’t really say, and even though your family are phoning around for the nearest team of men in white coats while you eagerly hold vigil with your Gmail inbox, you’re soon vindicated when all three reedsmen accept your oracular invitation. And with that, Battle Trance is born.
This, believe it or not, is a true story (well, minus the “men in white coats” jibe). As incredible as it sounds, it’s a perfect creation myth for the quartet, since their debut album moves with all the impulsivenes and unpredictability that inspired Laplante to repeatedly hit the “Send” button way back when. But it’s not only the elements of chance and intuition that its three pieces of cacophony-jazz harbor, since its wild snaking also emerges as a testament to change and impermanence in all their manifold guises.
This is why, after a misleadingly tranquil opening fanfare, “Palace of Wind I” begins careening through a fluid train of ever-shifting loops. Each sax weaves around every other in narrowing and widening circles, radiating the same hue of pregnant tension but never repeating just quite the same cyclical phrase. It’s as if each instrument is striving fervently to cling onto their respective centers of gravity, yet as the centrifugal and centripetal forces accumulate over a 13-minute span, they’re increasingly and repeatedly thrown off their axes, spinning wildly in a loss of control that, given the almost metaphysical rawness and primality of the music, implies that such a lack isn’t restricted solely to the four men responsible for its near-chaos.
This surging bedlam as well as its emphasis on change and chance is magnified by the fact that, as a unit, the three parts of Palace of Wind were through-composed by Laplante. This means two things: that its feral segments were written (although not scored) without any predetermined outline of their ultimate trajectory, and that not one of them is a repetition of any other. Consequently, each stretch of the elegiac “Palace of Wind II” is unique and irretrievable, and the floating pathos of its opening half commemorates this unavoidable transience with an alternating roundabout of horns that gradually thicken with foreboding, almost conscious of the fact that, besides being unable to guarantee their own consummation, they’re not long for this world.
And they turn out to be correct in their doomy pessimism, because after six minutes, they’re abruptly cleared away by an attack of unfriendly hee-hawing, their once-mournful striving nullified by an asthma that after less than a minute is itself annulled into a staggered call-and-response of high-pitched whistles, which in turn is then erased in favor of a stream of poignant melodies. And so on. Yet despite its nods to instability, powerlessness, frailty, mortality, and our apparent inability to stop ourselves from being whipped up into irrational frenzies by those around us, Palace of Wind’s narrative of ceaseless flux and rational impotence is undermined by its greatest strength: the rigor, intensity, and peerless coordination of its musicianship. Because for all the erratic outbursts and U-turns that structure the record, and for every one of its anti-teleological contingencies, a beacon of sense is kept alight by how the four saxophonists cohere and congeal in a way that isn’t even remotely haphazard.
At all points, their individual flutterings and flurries remain tightly wound up with each other, even if these points as a whole aren’t necessarily wound up with themselves. And whenever one sax unexpectedly deviates from its course, the others will correct themselves so as to complement whatever braying spasm or fluid requiem it happens to fall upon. And this microcosmic solidarity in the face of macrocosmic disorder is more or less to be expected, since prior to recording, Laplante, Nelson, Viner, and Breiner were locked away for five months in intensive rehearsals, cultivating the mutual sensitivity and responsiveness to each other displayed in the expanding swirls that impetuously close “Palace of Wind II,” in the contagiously gloomy heaving of “Palace of Wind I,” and in the violent punches and twists of “Palace of Wind III.” With their integration and inter-regulation, the notion that the aerial Palace of Wind is musical testimony to entropy, accident, and randomness becomes suspect, since the heated interplay that defines the album suggests that we’re perfectly capable of influencing and finding meaning in each other, even if we can’t lay claim to much control on a grander scale.
And its with this interactive to-and-fro, this ever-evolving process of interpersonal adjustment and coaxing, that Palace of Wind vouches for one kind of power at the very moment it denies another, as well as vouching for continuity while appearing to uphold its opposite. Its convulsive fits and grieving lulls may not have much faith in the lone individual’s capacity to foresee, comprehend, and guide the entire arc of his life, but they nonetheless support the idea that he can have an affect on the separate occurrences that form this life, that these aren’t solely a matter of unaccountable chance and change. Moreover, the knowledge that we can nudge events while remaining incapable of calculating where such nudges will ultimately take us is what, in the end, makes the album’s turbulent peaks so powerful and consuming. It’s also what allows us to say that, regardless of whether the mercurial Battle Trance are able to forecast where precisely they’ll be in five years time, they possess enough instinctive nous and intuitive know-how to ensure that any future music they produce along the way will be worth more than a listen or two. -

The Talkhouse (review by the great Roger C. Miller from Mission of Burma!)
PopMatters (Live review of our recent concert in Chicago)
The New York Times Classical Playlist
Tiny Mix Tapes
Chicago Reader
Wing Walker Music (Audio Interview)
The Whole Note
Wondering Sound

Travis Laplante, Heart Protector (2011)

I started writing these compositions for solo saxophone
about four years ago out of desperation and loneliness.
I was sick with severe vertigo and spending the summer
living alone in an attic in Vermont, a very special attic
where I live every summer. This was the most depressing time in my entire life thus far, waking up every morning with the hopes that when I opened my eyes I would see things to be still and clear, and instead everything seemed blurry and swayed as if I was on a boat in the ocean. I felt like I was in hell and I was going to die.
Seeking some sort of remedy, I exhausted all western medicine for my condition: steroids, MRIs, inner ear tests, everything.... Nothing seemed to help and on top of that no one could tell me what was wrong with me. It was at this point that I thought perhaps the whole thing was psychosomatic and I had simply gone mad.
It was through this desperation that I was led to a very gifted Five Element acupuncturist who happened to live in the same town as me in Vermont. I was terrified of needles and was very nervous when I met the acupuncturist. However the moment he needled my shaking body for the first time I felt energy gushing through my body in a shocking and undeniable way. It was at this moment that I started to realize how much untapped energy potential humans possess. It was almost as if humans were merely seeds pretending they are trees. I also had a very strong yet subtle feeling that healing myself as well as healing others would become a vital part of my life and that this would not be a separate practice from my music.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this exact moment was the beginning of my walk toward uncovering this untapped energy potential, becoming what was once called a shaman. A shaman embraces life rather than escapes from it. He/she transmutes difficult situations into springboards for unfoldment, recognizing that all life is spiritual when lived from the viewpoint of Soul. The unfoldment is never-ending.

Little Women

cover art

Lung (2013)

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Lung – the new album-length composition from Brooklyn’s genre-defying Little Women – is sonic cinema without precedent. Collectively composed and refined over the course of 2011/12, the piece is a collaborative work at the purest level, and is by far their most dynamic to date. Tone poem evocation, pop group melodicism, all-four-vocal-chords-as-one intonation, and unparalleled shrapnel-sharp/laser-beam-focused shredding are some of the sonic vistas moved through during this astonishing creation. The aim of their music continues to be transcendence, be it via brutally precise sonic assault, indelibly ascendant melodies or a quiet imbued with the globally resonant sound of the circulatory system.
Where their previous acclaimed suite Throat (2010, AUM061) grabbed listeners by the neck from its first seconds, Lung arises slowly from silence. The visceral qualities of their previous work maintained, the band is now also comfortable in places of deep subtlety – the long inhale, and magical moment of pause before the exhale – thereby diving deeper into the inner planes of emotion and spirit. The highly charged emotional center of Lung becomes fully evident only when listened to in its entirety.
The band writes, “The main themes/forms of Lung all have the shape of a downfall of something beautiful. We were working with a Shakespearian form from its conception. The main themes that developed organically throughout the process of creating Lung are: the life and death of humans, the inhale and the exhale, the death of earth (both seasonally and ultimately). These themes exist and are encompassed on both the microcosmic and macrocosmic level, meaning they exist simultaneously inside every sound, every phrase, every section, and the entire piece.”
Learn more on members of Little Women at:

There are few bands like Little Women, and an album like Lung is rarer still. A supergroup combining four relatively young and unmistakably ambitious jazz musicians, Little Women are not terribly prolific, making just one EP and two full lengths since 2007. But when they do manage to break away from their usual routines and regroup, they certainly make the moment count. Trusting intuition more than anything else, they let the music go where it will, even if it becomes violent. Their previous album certainly struck a chord within modern jazz circles. Upon leaving a talk held by Dave Douglas in 2011, I heard a jazz student from OSU heap praise on 2010’s Throat, saying it was the best thing he’d heard the previous year. 2010 was a year crammed with great jazz, especially the modern stuff, so I figured there must be something to these guys.
In 2007, Little Women started at the Teeth. By 2010, they moved down the Throat. 2013 finds them deep in the Lung, and the title is appropriate. While Little Women’s first two albums arrived at their edge via visceral skronks delivered in spikey attacks, Lung staggers itself so strategically that the music wasn’t even divvied into separate tracks. Yep, Lung is presented as one bell-shaped track lasting 42:13. Saxophonists Travis Laplante and Darius Jones, guitarist Andrew Smiley, and drummer Jazon Nazary want you to consume the suite all in one sitting. If that sounds intimidating to you, know that it’s actually not. “Lung” takes its sweet time developing and blooming, making it easier for the listener to take the journey with the band. It’s not a mindless jam and it’s not a meticulously composed piece of serious music—at least I don’t think it is. Little Women likely gave themselves some loose parameters and took the time to let the music breathe on its own. And hey, that’s probably why they called it “Lung”.
When you open the digipak, the only liner notes you will find are a set of instructions corresponding to our planet’s four seasons. Just as we experience seasons as a cycle, our respiratory systems keep a perpetual cycle going. We breathe air, we consume air, and things end as they begin. “Lung” does the same thing; it ends the way it began, with quiet but forceful breath. The four members stagger their inhales and exhales together. Even when Nazary makes his entrance with the cymbals, the level of quiet achieved here is a rare thing to experience compared to a majority of today’s recorded music. Laplante and Jones slowly dance around one another as Smiley sprinkles a simple two-string figure on top. They do this for quite a while, slowly building steam so that they may…sing? Close to the six minute mark, one or two of the members hold a tone with a soft ‘a’ vowel as the saxophones and guitar wrap up their gentle phrase. Now all four members are vocalizing the same note, staggering with one another to keep it going. A noisy sax tears through the sheet, reminding everyone else to bang away on their instruments. After some rudimentary announcements from the Smiley and Nazary, especially of the don’t-you-forget-my-guitar-is-electric-and-I-know-how-to-use-it persuasion, “Lung” falls deathly silent once again. At this point I’m thinking Wow, these guys really have eggs if they think they can get away with that much quiet. Not only does it fly in the face of the ongoing compression you hear in the loudness wars, but it defies what Little Women did before.
As the piece inches nearer and nearer to the halfway point, it grows more bipolar. The quiet saxophone passages grow more dissonant as Smiley and Nazary continually threaten to come in and bulldoze everything. Deep in the center of “Lung”, everything finally goes crazy. Smiley and Nazary barely follow each other while Laplante and Jones fly off in their own directions with trill-happy free solos. From here to the end, “Lung” walks a line between chaos and form that grows increasingly fragile as it rolls along. The surprises grow more frequent, asking the listener to constantly readjust what they think is going to happen next. It takes nearly three minutes for Little Women to allow the dust to settle, and as one may expect, it is done so uncompromisingly. The saxophones’ shronks have been reduced to mousey little yelps as “Lung” finally peters out.
This is a moody reminder of what modern jazz can, but often does not attempt to, do. In the throes of climbing to the highest peaks of noise and fury, bold musicians both young and old sometimes forget to explore the caves and meadows below. It’s in these alternate places where things can become eerily still, so soft that it scares you. At the risk of sounding like a wimp, Lung can make for frightening listening. But that’s no excuse to miss out on it. Like I said, there is no band quite like Little Women and Lung is an even scarcer achievement. It would be a pity to miss this alignment. Besides, from Teeth to Throat to Lung, where do they go next? I bristle to think.

THE LIST Review4 Stars. "Lung is conceptualised around the human breath, treating it as a sound source and organising element. The results are both inventive and moving, striking a remarkably fluid balance between structure and free improvisation."
–Stewart Smith
BURNING AMBULANCE Review"This is the most beautiful and emotionally powerful piece of music I’ve heard so far in 2013." –Philip Freeman
TIME OUT NEW YORK Critic's Pick / Preview Feature
"A monumental exercise in both subtle restraint and skronky fireworks." –Brad Cohan

Throat (2010)

One morning last week, I made the mistake of turning on Little Women’s Throat during a walk to work without checking the volume on my iPod, which was cranked up to the zenith. The horns rammed immediately into my eardrum, pounding my brain to oblivion with unrestrained sonic catharsis, instantly grabbing me by the anterior part of my neck so hard it bruised my vertebral column. My entire body tensed up from shock and I reached for the volume dial in such a panic that I almost collapsed on the sidewalk. Throat is an album that forcefully writes itself on the body, entering unexpectedly like the street-squawks of a midnight madman, invading and disrupting any established stasis and depositing pulverizing joy that spins around the bloodstream and hyper-animates locked-up bones.
The fury whipped up by Travis Laplante (tenor sax), Darius Jones (alto sax), Andrew Smiley (guitar), and Jazon Nazary (drums) is inspired by the insane blowing of Euro-free jazz as much as it is the mathematics of Lightning Bolt and the hardest North American bop you can imagine. Little Women brilliantly transition between the most gut-wrenching improvised violence, wide open space, and hyper-speed precision like no other group on the scene. On “Throat II,” you can almost hear the reeds splintering as the dueling phrases mellow out into uptight friction after the mayhem of the opening track, gradually drifting into a celebratory Aylerian scale ascension. The notes dance, ricocheting and enhancing each other, surely creating problems for any spectrogram data crunchers.
The interplay between Laplante and Jones is most spectacular. At times, their horns coil around each other like a squad of snakes suffocating their prey, but they frequently leave a space open that allows the tones to produce chimeras of lingering sound. It’s as if Smiley’s guitar work, which is reminiscent of a more jacked-up and deranged Andy Gill, is the glue that holds everything together. Despite the white noise residue and jangling static left on the edge of the grooves, the blinding fret moves are extraordinarily intricate. Nazary’s accuracy is remarkable, as he manages to return from the dangerous depths of aleatoric frenzy to hit each rapid time shift flawlessly.
“Throat IV,” the almost 12-minute centerpiece of the album, shows that Little Women are up for more than just whirlwind, heat, and flash. There are some tranquil moments here that allow the listener to readjust and brace him or herself for the next skronk-dose. The first few minutes of horn play are deeply spiritual but, just as it seems like the group is settling into a Love Cry-kinda groove, they slip into an epic and unexpected post-rock mode. Though, thank Zeus, they don’t stay with it too long; right as the horns start to sound off-key and drenched in NyQuil, Smiley’s guitar goes blurry and signals the coming of the spectacular chaos that was lurking under the calming cloak all the while.
The kundalini power or demons Little Women are attempting to expel from their collective body with Throat are, if not fully cast out into the world, undeniably real. The last track on the album features the group putting their social instruments aside and producing guttural grunts and growls with only their human instruments, reminiscent of “Immm” from The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s Bap-Tizum. The mood is potent and terrifying as their throats produce what squares and/or colonists would likely tag uncivilized, cannibalistic sounds. If the human voice and the body as a whole are as untamable and powerful as the sounds Little Women have captured, then we can easily destroy the discourses and structures that establish our historical limits. Throat is a timely battle cry for both the unstoppable force of experimental musics and the fact that no mode of domination can ever fully conquer the wild energy and potentiality that blooms inside the body, waiting to explode out into the world and shatter that which must be shattered. - Elliott Sharp

So this album has a lot of people GOING CRAZY in the music world. Some people hate everything about it and ardently posit that anyone who listens to Throat is a pretentious fuck, and some people champion it's complete and smashing brilliance in all aspects and how it'll change your life after one listen: just take a look at this, or this.
Little Women, the men behind Throat, are a quartet from Brooklyn and are the self-proclaimed weirdest band in the world, but I am simply not moved one way or the other. Yes, this music is very weird, and it is also very cool as avant-garde goes, but at the same time it honestly sounds like it could have been completely improvised - you may be surprised what trained musicians can pull out of their butts when put on the spot. But apparently a LOT of people think this album is one of the greatest they've ever heard.
And history has seen a lot of this phenomenon: Anthony Burgess said he wrote a Clockwork Orange in only two weeks trying to pick up some extra cash, and it's hailed as one of the greatest books of all time. I'm not saying it's a bad book, I'm saying that just because it's weird and different doesn't mean it's genius. And if you've read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, you'll recognize this social pattern immediately. In the novel, the main villain takes control of a major media outlet to promote avant-garde writing and music, similar to Little Women,  as "only for the most advanced and infastidious citizen," and people completely buy into it, which drives the overall standard for art into the ground (the villain was a communist, by the way). I feel like that's happening here, people think they're really smart and advanced for liking this sort of music, and the more they praise it, the more people will respect them for their extraordinary musicality
Personally, I don't buy into any of it. You can check out the album on Grooveshark, because I don't have it on my computer anymore. - extendedmusicalintegrity.blogspot.com/2012/06/little-women-throat-avant.html

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