Reviews

Szun Waves
Earth Patterns

(LEAF)

9/10

Szun Waves, the trio formed of analogue synth wizard Luke Abbott, Portico Quartet saxophonist Luke Wylie and drummer Laurence Pike, founder of Australian jazz experimentalists Triosk and currently of Liars, recorded this, their third full-length release, across three intense days of improvisation at the end of 2019, right before the you-know-what got in the way of them finishing it. Nearly three years on, and with help from label boss James Holden to get the record over the line, Earth Patterns clearly benefits from its slow gestation: where previous Szun Waves records have felt like snapshots of performance with an almost documentary approach, Earth Patterns has the kind of definite, deliberate form and atmosphere – earthbound and weather-beaten, yearning, devotional and rebellious – that tends only to arise from taking extended time to listen and sculpt. 

It’s all the more persuasive as a result: the group’s trademark film-score-soundscapes-with-free-jazz-overtones remains, but now that character oozes right across the seven tracks here, during which music feels rattled and shaken out of its instruments rather than just played, and a murky, exterior quality accordingly endures: this is music for the outdoors and dusk, with all the associated perceptual strangeness that goes with it. Wylie’s sax frequently resembles a soprano voice, simultaneously shrieking and still, and Pike’s percussion rustles and glints like branches on the breeze. Timbres of an upright piano on ‘In the Moon House’ offer a concrete sense of place, and the thunderously brooding closer ‘Atomkerne’ offers a rather thrilling climax to a record otherwise full of simmer and shimmer, meticulously crafted for maximum impact.

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