May 29, 2024

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CD review: Jason Moran – BlankFor.ms – Marcus Gilmore – Refract – 2023: Video, CD cover

Composer and electronic musician Tyler Gilmore, aka BlankFor.ms, laid the groundwork for this absorbing jazz-meets-electronica set. Titled Refract, its heart is a freewheeling weave of ad-libbed tape loops arranged by Gilmore, Jason Moran’s acoustic piano and Marcus Gilmore drums.

There’s lashings of resonant, emotionally complex piano and the album is infused with the energy of an improvising jazz trio taking wing. It begins with a sheen of sound emerging from silence, eventually fractured by the gravelly sound of a degraded tape. Aptly titled “Onset I”, that opening number is virtually through-improvised.

Rising to a peak, it segues smoothly into “Onset II”’s grainy electronic textures, spacious rhythms and Moran’s deadened notes. A sense of inevitability makes the improvised seem pre-composed. The slowly evolving “Stir” unfolds with a rigour that sounds preset. The mesmerising, bittersweet “Affectionate, Painful” and the bouncy “Inward, Curve” are based on given melodies and sequences of chords.

Here pianist Moran’s improvisations embellish the compositions’ emotional ambiguity with spidery lines and starkly voiced chords. The body of the album is taken up by a series of “Tape Loops” which are described on the sleeve as “jumping off points”. BlankFor.ms adds improvised layers to the pianist’s and drummer’s trains of thought, and sampled, looped and fed-back snippets of what the trio had created on the fly.

“Tape Loop A” is a melange of crisp snare, sampled hi-hat and beeps, and “Tape Loop D” ends the set with Moran’s rich piano ebbing into silence over a shimmer of sound. “Tape Loops B & C” are continuous improvisations which, divided into multiple parts, most capture the feel and spontaneity of a tight-working band.

Drummer Gilmore’s beats are razor-sharp, the electronica is on point and Moran is in imperious form. A thrilling mix of improvised electronica and contemporary modern jazz.

1. Onset I 04:13
2. Onset II 03:26
3. Tape Loop A 03:11
4. Affectionate, Painful 05:19
5. Inward, Curve 04:11
6. Tape Loop B – I 05:45
7. Tape Loop B – II 03:00
8. Tape Loop B – III 03:20
9. Eighth Pose 04:03
10. Stir 05:33
11. Release 01:32
12. Little Known 03:36
13. Tape Loop C – I 04:49
14. Tape Loop C – II 02:15
15. Tape Loop C – III 02:37
16. Tape Loop D 05:07

BlankFor.ms: electronics, tape loops, processing
Jason Moran: piano
Marcus Gilmore: drums

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