We Were The Phliks
This album does not reveal its secrets easily. The proceedings start slowly and sparsely enough, but, very quickly, we are thrust headlong into a densely packed quartet of intense contrapuntal improvisations, full of long blisteringly fast lines. The occasional rhythms prevail, but they are quickly usurped by further post-post-Bop interregistral runs.
The results are initially exhausting, and on first listen, Thomas Lehn and Xu Fengxia provide the only relief in the form of varied texture. Lehn’s synthwork has always been a pleasure to hear, endlessly inventive and compatible with almost anything. Xu Fengxia is new to me, but her work here is brilliant, exhibiting the best timbral traits of European improv peppered with what I can only describe as touches of pan-ethnicity. Sudden shifts in volume, pitch, and duration make her contributions forceful but beautiful.
Only the final track presents some welcome moments of repose, and, I might add, some of the most intricate and gorgeous group improv on the disc. Long drones swell, shimmer and fade, guitar gliding in softly to obscure itself in saxophone shadows. When the lines return, they are slow, almost languid, the players seemingly more willing to accommodate space.
As interesting and engaging as these pieces ultimately can be, Fields’ playing strikes me as too similar throughout. Perhaps it’s just a sound I don’t like, or with which I need more acquaintance, but almost constant runs executed in a very homogeneous timbral spectrum don’t help matters. The fourth piece in particular holds incredible promise, for all members of the ensemble, and I hope that this group will continue exploring in that direction. — Cadence Magazine
Scott Fields’ compositional world is forbidding at best, almost impenetrable at worst. Billed as a double trio and actually recorded ten years ago, Dénouement lends itself more easily to immediate comprehension because of the stereo placement of the six players. Additionally, or maybe as a result, the textures are somewhat thinner, or more accessible,than on more recent releases. The opening guitar duo breathes with refreshing transparency, and when the other instruments enter, it is as if each, aware of his doppelganger, is extra careful not to tread on any toes. The compositions themselves, structures rather than always strictly notated, also allow for more space and silence; simply listen to Nothing had been Wrong to spot the aesthetic. A beautiful bass glissando opens a meditative full group exploration, Kline and Parker’s guitar styles of a piece, even combining with high arco playing from the bassists to eerie effect. The album swings and lopes with downright pleasantness, not that any of the sure-fire improvisational prowess of other efforts is sacrificed — far from it! All complement each other quite nicely in what might be described as a harmolodic journey through structured improvisation. — Cadence Magazine