In Rob Mazurek‘s extensive discography, it is difficult to find a release that isn’t a worthwhile listen. Indeed, most of his efforts, especially those of the last few years, are resoundingly excellent. Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy Ghost continues this trend.
The album, featuring Mazurek’s cohorts in Sao Paulo Underground and three new participants, is both a tribute to his mother, as well as a shamanistic ritual to mark her recent passing. Consisting of four tracks all around the 16-18 minute mark, the album offers a logical expansion to the recent Sao Paulo Underground sound. With the three additional musicians, who mostly contribute electronics, sax, and voices, the sextet includes layers and a density that Mazurek’s Brazilian trio hadn’t previously captured.
The album takes the listener on a journey of sorts, starting with Oh Mother (Angel’s Wings), featuring dense percussion, free improv over a repeating harmony, then a noisy freak out at the end. Return the Tides follows, and is powerfully themed, probably the most immediately appealing track. Let the Rain Fall Upwards includes something resembling backwards masking, as well as walls of electronics backing Mazurek’s cornet. Finally, Reverse the Lightning is a quieter piece, featuring the rabeca, a Brazilian fiddle. Not unlike the Sao Paulo Underground albums, it can be difficult to discern the synthesized sounds from the acoustic instruments.
Mazurek and company channel Electric Miles, Sun Ra, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago to make a recording that is cosmic, spiritual, raw, and powerful. Return the Tides depicts an emotionally chaotic trek from the anguish of loss to peace. One of Mazurek’s best efforts to date.