AMN Reviews: Colin Stetson, Billy Martin, Elliott Sharp & Payton MacDonald – Void Patrol (2022; Infrequent Seams)

Unexpected groupings of accomplished musicians can be fun. Here we have Colin Stetson on sax, Elliott Sharp on guitar (bass and electric, it seems) and electronics, Billy Martin on drums and percussion, and Payton MacDonald on keyboard percussion coming together for a long-distance studio effort that presents as a jam session of old friends, but with an unusual level of sophistication.

MacDonald laid down the initial tracks on marimba, and then provided structured charts to guide the others. After some collaboration to agree upon the basic parameters of the pieces, each recorded their parts in their respective home studios.

The group moves along various axes of open improv versus pre-arranged patterns, use of extended techniques, dissonance, repetition, and so on. For example, on Antares, we have Stetson playing circular lines over rough chording from Sharp and grooves from Martin, whereas Rigel features guitar harmonics and repeating sax rhythms. Throughout, MacDonald and Martin provide pulse-driven rhythms that move forward at a healthy clip. Some of the meatier moments are when Stetson employs a low-frequency sax to produce outside wails that accentuate MacDonald’s dense charts. All tracks are named after stars, through the music is more earthy than spacious.

Ostensibly classified as jazz-drone-metal, one can hear hints of those styles. But Void Patrol is better thought of as the output of a jam band for the differently-wired. This quartet manages to provide plenty of intellect without coming across as taking themselves too seriously.

Void Patrol will be released on June 17 by Infrequent Seams.

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