AMN Reviews: Nathan Hubbard ER Quartet – Lattice Trust (2017; Castor&Pollux Music)

San Diego percussionist Nathan Hubbard is back with his second release of 2017, this time teaming up with experienced Southern California session-men G.E. Stinson on electric guitar and electronics, Steuart Liebig on bass and electronics, and Alex Cline on drums. With such a lineup, his ER Quartet is a bonafide supergroup, with accordingly high expectations. Lattice Trust does not disappoint even when considered in this light.

Consisting of three pieces – the 30-minute title track and two 8-minute efforts, Hubbard leads his compatriots through a labyrinthine journey exploring the edges of free improv. The overall sound comes across much bigger than what one would expect from a quartet. Cline provides his frenetic creative-jazz drumming, accentuated by Hubbard on vibes, bells, and samples. Liebig is also in usual form – all over the bass without providing any significantly rhythmic lines. In addition to guitar, Stinson’s electronics supply atmospheric washes. The emphasis is on timbre and texture rather than melody or any particular structure.

But perhaps the most remarkable and enjoyable aspect of the album is how all of this works together. Hubbard, Cline, Liebig, and Stinson play overlapping, disjoint lines in a fashion that almost comes off as four solo efforts being combined.  But this combination makes the overall endeavor exceed that of the individual contributions.

Comparisons are hard to make, though I hear a bit of Krautrock (think Popol Vuh or Ash Ra Tempel), Bill Laswell, and European free music. But these references do not begin to properly characterize the album. While having a distinct 1970’s feel at times, it is nothing less than groundbreaking, modern spontaneous music.

Lattice Trust is busy, dense, and thick. There is a lot going on here, enough for new discoveries across many repeated listens. An easy album of the year candidate.

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