Saturday, January 16, 2021

CD Review: Ingrid Laubrock - Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt

First things first: I mentioned that the NPR Jazz Critics Poll for 2020 wasn't up in my last post and, sure enough, it popped up a few hours later. Here is the list of albums of the year. More significantly, check out what Francis Davis has to say (his personal story is a hoot, and a little tragic) and look at what your favorite jazz scribe has to say. Or just follow this link and scroll down a bit to see what Mike "He Only Likes Stuff that No One Else Knows" Shanley said.

The following album already made its way onto the list which probably means it's "old" but now, but this is about the time of year that I catch up on albums anyway, So without further tangential yammering...

Ingrid Laubrock
Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt

Dreams have provided inspiration for music probably since the beginning of time. Saxophonist/composer Ingrid Laubrock has been keeping a dream journal (at the behest of friend and collaborator Mary Halvorson) for over a decade, having become very fascinated with the things she recalls from her subconscious state. The five compositions on this album were inspired by entries from the journal, as an attempt to "re-enter the dream to compose from that state of mind." The two discs present the music in two very different settings: the first with the EOS Chamber Orchestra, the other with an ensemble ranging from three to six people.

Like dreams, the music often moves slowly, content to stay in one place. The orchestra's version of "Drilling" has an almost minimalist nine-minute opening, with long brass tones and piano notes acting as sounds outside a window, coalescing to influence the direction of a dream. But the small ensemble version of "Drilling" begins with an drone of accordion (Adam Matlock) and electronics (Sam Pluta) that might seem nightmarish by comparison it if didn't evoke the roar of a B3 organ flexing its way through a Leslie cabinet.

But Laubrock insists that the different versions aren't meant to be used for simple compare and contrast. In fact, the music get a little too involved to do that. What's clear is the larger group seems to bear some influence of Laubrock's bandmate from Paradoxical Frog, Tyshawn Sorey. Like Sorey's own compositions, the music's open space provide as much significance as the space filled with sound. Laubrock also uses the sonorities of the orchestra to create a rich color. In "Snorkel Runs" the tones of strings, reeds and brass become clearer and as they repeat a long tone passage. 

Sometimes it feels like the journey becomes more important than the destination, as some of the music on Disc One seems to build to a climax that never exactly arrives. After 12 minutes - the average length of the tracks on Disc One - sometimes a little more could have helped, although Laubrock does often step in for a tenor or soprano solo. Drummer Tom Rainey and bassist Richard Landfermann also liven things up with solos as well.

Pluta appears with the orchestra and the small ensemble as does Cory Smythe (piano, quarter-tone keyboard). Matlock joins them on three of the five small group tracks, along with Zeena Parkins (electric harp) and, on two tracks, Josh Modney (violin). Things are generally more raucous on this disc, going for the darker side of dreams. A piano run at the start of "Snorkel Runs" gets sampled and distorted by Pluta, who shoots it back into the piece, moments after Smythe plays it. He does the same with Laubrock's tenor later in this track, adding to the energy. "Down the Mountain, Down the Mountain" sprouts some added microtonal melodies that add to the tension. 

"Twice Dreaming" closes the album with sustained piano chords, held until they fully decay (again evoking Sorey), abetted by dark accordion notes, all of it finally overpowered by distorted skronk from Parkins. While Laubrock insists that the music shouldn't be heard as a whole piece spread over two discs, it's easy to view this foreboding piece as a bookend to Disc One's opening "Dreamt Twice." By the end, it's nearly a surrealistic sound piece showing all manner of what can be found in dreams.  

Spoiler alert - it cuts off abruptly, again like a crazy dream. If it was a dream that made Laubrock bolt up in bed, it seems that she was less freaked out by the dream and more motivated to get it down in the journal before she forgot about it.

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