AMN Reviews: Lee Ranaldo / Jim Jarmusch / Marc Urselli / Balazs Pandi – Churning of the Ocean (2021; TROST Records)

2019’s self-titled debut by this unusual quartet was such an understated and solid recording, I was worried that it would be a one-off. These concerns were allayed last week with the announcement of a sophomore effort, Churning of the Ocean, to be released June 11 on TROST Records. I use the word “unusual” because of the group members’ disparate backgrounds. Ranaldo is well known for his key role in Sonic Youth, Jarmusch is a musician and filmmaker, Urselli a producer and confidant of John Zorn, and Pandi one of the most versatile drummers of his generation. The music is rather unconventional as well.

The album sounds as if four long-time friends got together on a rainy afternoon for a joyous yet melancholy jam session. Like its predecessor, Churning of the Ocean was recorded live in the studio without overdubs. Some of these pieces venture off into free improvisation, while others maintain a loose structure. The dual guitar approach of Ranaldo and Jarmusch is in no hurry to get anywhere and takes plenty of diversions. Often, one of these two is generating textures and soundscapes while the other plays chords and brief solos, manipulates feedback, or provides further texture. The rhythm section is deliberate without being plodding, kept active by Pandi’s relentless explorations. Urselli’s bass contributions are subdued, while his laptop effects merge well with the group’s noisemaking.

That all said, Churning of the Ocean is simply an enjoyable listen, from start to finish. Kudos to Ranaldo, Jarmusch, Urselli, and Pandi for making a great follow-up to a great album.