The newly-launched Burning Ambulance Music adds to its growing catalog with efforts from Breath of Air and José Lencastre. Both can be placed under the creative music umbrella if such categorization is necessary. But even in a crowded genre with releases too numerous to count, these musicians still manage to produce fresh and innovative sounds. The albums will be out on August 5th.
Breath of Air consists of Brandon Ross on electric guitar, Charles Burnham on violin, and Warren Benbow on drums. Most immediately notable is how Burnham plays his violin like a guitar (in terms of its rough and textural sound) resulting in this self-titled debut initially coming across as if it were a dual guitar and drum trio. Of the five tracks, each between four and twelve minutes in length, four were recorded live in early 2020, the other in-studio six months prior.
Ross, Burnham, and Benbow merge their influences in a seamless fashion. Besides creative jazz, there is more than a hint of blues and perhaps a bit of funk as well. Ross plays with heavy distortion while Burnham provides circular motifs and soaring themes. Benbow has a knack to do the unexpected, throwing in short repeating patterns amongst otherwise unstructured beats.
At first blush Breath of Air seems to be freely improvised, but after a while even that notion can be called into question. Case in point, the repeating riff ending No One On Earth Can See You Anymore and clearly-defined melodies that pop up now and again throughout the recording. Indeed, Spare the World (Your Good Ideas) exhibits not a small amount of tension. Ross speeds and slows his riffs to staggered rhythms from Benbow over which Burnham solos. Toward the end, they create a cooperative, abstract soundscape with subtle ambient and post-rock touches.
In contrast, José Lencastre’s Inner Voices is ostensibly a solo saxophone effort, though with generous overdubs, effects, and contributions on several tracks from producer Ary. Each piece is short aside from Whale Talk‘s sixteen minutes. Lencastre plays alto and tenor, often with at least three or four distinct lines present, as well as the aforementioned overdubs creating a thick rhythmic base.
Without first reading the liner notes, the causal listener might think that Lencastre is leading a sax quartet. Thus, initial impressions might put this album alongside those from the ROVA quartet, though ROVA has a penchant for meandering whereas Lencastre is focused on pre-meditated melodic and harmonic structures. Not to say that this makes things predictable – for instance, The Universe is Calling features an outside solo over up-down staccato passages.
Contributions from Ary are largely subtle with a few airy or watery manipulations here and there. Exceptions are Moonlit Meadows and the aforementioned Whale Talk, in which overdubs are kept to a minimum while Ary provides knob-turning, short bursts of distortion, echoes, and cosmic sounds. As matter of fact, these tracks are the most experimental of the bunch, breaking the pattern that Lencastre establishes on the rest of the album.
The result of this is that a large portion of Inner Voices resembles chamber music more than jazz. It is playful yet technically sophisticated, with a few memorable hooks as well as a nice chunk of compelling dissonance. The last twenty minutes are open-ended and experimental. All of the above is very well done.