Atlantis is the second album from electronic musician John Chantler’s vibrant trio with drummer Steve Noble and alto saxophonist Seymour Wright. Their first, Front And Above, was recorded at Dalston’s Café Oto, the Ground Zero of London’s improvised music scene and the birthplace of many new and sonically challenging collaborations, including Wright’s ongoing work with Noble and his GUO unit with Daniel Blumberg. Their first album with Chantler was heavily edited to draw out a focus on its emptiest passages, whereas Atlantis’s feisty declaratory aura bespeaks a wildness that was more or less intentionally scrubbed out from Front And Above in the manner of Robert Rauschenberg’s 1953 Erased De Kooning sketch
Not that this is just some on-the-spot spontaneous date lacking any sort of overarching vision: though Atlantis was recorded and mixed in a single day (24 January 2018) at the very Stockholm studio space that ABBA once called home, it was preceded by a week of intense trio rehearsals at the Fylkingen arts space in the city and a smattering of gigs in Norway. Listening to the three pieces presented here, that time spent in each other’s company creates a sort of seamless, highly responsive intermeshing of the three musicians, threaded through which emerges a kind of restless, gripping energy and tension.
A key ingredient in pieces like the twenty-two minute ‘Class I – A Single Entrance Created From A Gap In The Bank’ is a sort of power drumming that’s often absent from improvised music, where the emphasis is more frequently on balance, texture and abstract percussive pointillism. Some of the impact here comes from the studio itself, where the space’s dynamics created a rich, natural reverb that loaned itself to a heavier form of playing. Many of the most thrilling moments arrive when Noble works himself into a cyclical frenzy, the response from Wright being a howling, guttural tone and through which Chantler weaves elastic drones and grimy extraterrestrial splinters.
Introspection also emerges elsewhere in that piece’s passage. A delicate tipping point arrives in the middle five minutes involving what sounds like tuned percussion interacting with a shimmering, enveloping blanket of lyrical synth tones and an engaging high-pitched whine like compressed air escaping gradually from Seymour Wright’s sax. When the piece inevitably builds back up toward its denouement, it is led by Chantler’s synths becoming restless and as angry as a swarm of irritated hornets, inspiring a heavyweight percussion response and angry saxophone growls.
Atlantis by John Chantler / Steve Noble / Seymour Weight is released January 16 2020 by 1703 Skivbolaget.
(c) 2020 Further.