Blast 4tet – Sift

(ReR Megacorp) 

Over the years, Blast have maintained an important position in the roster of post-RIO groups whose craft is based on typical elements of compositional complexity and somewhat brainy improvisation. If some of their past works didn’t manage to consistently tickle this writer’s passion, given an often excessive search for complications that somehow hindered the music’s vital flow, the reduction of the structure to a sax/guitar/bass/drums quartet (respectively Dirk Bruinsma, Frank Crijns, Paed Conca and Fabrizio Spera) has indubitably done a lot of good to the group’s overall sound, which is now lean and mean without convolutions and surpluses, the compositions functionally engaging while keeping an intelligent experimental edge.

Basically, Sift privileges structures which juxtapose the superimposition of meters and a pungently angular approach to the phrasing. The deriving geometries — informed by a type of dissonance that will feel natural to whoever is experienced in this area — appear logically considered, transparent in a way, coherently articulate. This interlocking of different patterns and pulses — circular reiteration upon square foundations, instantly interchangeable tempos in the space of thirty seconds — is the essence of practically everything here, as symbolized by the temperamental succession characterizing “Fluke” which starts with a funky feel to throw players and listeners alike right into the arms of neurotic ostinatos, the whole slowed down by sparse clustery chords during the calmer sections. Throughout the program Blast emerge as a solid unit, not four separate entities: they never transcend the limits of instrumental intelligibility, Bruinsma’s baritone probably the only color that might be seen as a tiny trademark in an otherwise compact palette made of semi-clean guitars, ever-focused bass lines, a brand of drumming that modifies the ensemble’s physiological beat at the flick of a switch (“Swerves” being a nice example in that sense).

Speaking of Spera, his “Pole” represents a digression of sorts, although cooked with the same ingredients utilized in the rest of the album. This piece sounds in fact more as a studio-conceived electroacoustic composition, its origins possibly lying in a handful of pre-constructed segments; the vibe remains utterly improvisational, though — just like everywhere else. Elio Martusciello contributes with electronics in this track, the fitting conclusion for an almost faultless release, an accurate dosage of components in the ideal time span of less than 44 minutes.

(Personal PS: I became nostalgic after reading that this record was taped in Montepulciano by Stefano Vivaldi, recognizing in this name the enthusiastic kid from Tuscany to whom, about two decades ago, yours truly sold one of the very few exemplars of Chapman Stick existing in Italy. We got old, Stefano!)



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