AMN Reviews: Danketsu 9 – Thahraas (2018; Never Anything Records)

Thahraas, and its single track Nepravda, is a 24-minute improvisation by a 9-piece extended chamber ensemble. Instrumentation includes accordion, flutes, cello, double bass, guitar, voice, sax, and violin. It was recorded live early last year.

The group’s modus operandi is to have each instrument provide additive contributions to a slow-paced drone-like atmosphere. From this multi-layered approach, individuals and sub-groups peel off with understated melodies and motifs before returning to the main themes. The general quietness of this restrained approach is broken from time to time with a louder, occasionally jarring diversion. The wordless vocals provide for melancholy emotiveness.

At just about any point in the recording, there are at least two dominant lines though the overall strategy is not strictly contrapuntal. Indeed, some of the most compelling parts are in the second half, with a relatively aggressive and clearly improvised guitar, sax, and flute break.

There is a lot to unpack on Thahraas, which makes it a prime candidate for multiple listenings. Like a meticulously formed painting, each sitting will open up new layers and details.