Sunday, 20 August 2017

Taylor Haskins - Gnosis, album review

Horn Fanfare

Jan and Dean trumpet bursts meet electronic noise on a cinema screen swirling with the backdrop of outer space. Sudden highly pitched synth sounds dart across this landscape like morse code messages returning from decade’s old send offs, now with alien enhancements. And that’s just the two opening tracks Hazy Days and The View from Here.

But it isn’t weird. There’s the jazz fusion of Nir Felder’s guitar defining itself clearly in the mix on the second track; in title song Gnosis, a philosophising Jiddu Krishnamurti is sampled at the start and within, the trumpet, flute [Jamie Baum] and synth sounds placidly cool in their empathetic thinking to present Haskins’ musical knowledge in a remarkably practical way: playing it.

The mix of synthesised/programmed sounds and the conventional is brilliant throughout, and as tracks segue into one another the shifts across and within make for a seamless but lively journey. Equal Night and Circle Theory are a dynamic pairing, the former with Henry Hey’s Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos dancing with Haskins’ analog EVI and programming in such a tonally rich pitch – scorching too at four minutes in – and yet there’s a soothing overall wash; the latter merged into its horn ripples and synth spurts over a funky rhythm. Although there are noisy peaks [which are far-out] it is essentially a beautiful coupling.

Lost Worlds has Joshua Roseman contributing trombone that is an echo of a growl to start beneath the synth and piano, Daniel Freedman’s percussion laying Asian rhythms, and Haskins’ trumpet seemingly looped; Artificial Scarcity has the horn further effected.

The penultimate track Plucky has ethnic-rhythmic contributions from Daniel Freedman again, and harpist Brandee Younger provides an instrument not only pretty in its cascading sounds but supplies a source of the song-title’s punning. Closer alt_x is a punchy rhythmic bed above which the horn and synth reverb and echo in blasts of great volume until settling down to some fine keys to let the bass [Todd Sickafoose] and percussion have a moment, slowly, then rising to greet the horn peels again and Hey’s keyboards. Nice one. Very nice album.

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