Review by Tim Niland on Music and More (March 1, 2018)

Stomiidae is a devastating and thrilling avant-garde jazz album from Daniel Levin on cello, Chris Pistiokos on alto saxophone and Brandon Seabrook on electric guitar. All three of these men are well known in jazz and free improvisation circles, so their coming together under one banner is a cause for celebration. This music was collectively improvised and recorded in April of 2016 at Firehouse 12 in Connecticut. The results produced by this group is a caustic and bold melding of sound and body, but in the best manner possible. The swirling scouring action provided by the cello and guitar lock horns and provide a powerful jolt that can be ridden or joined by the acidic toned saxophone. These episodes of arch freedom are matched by sections of eerie calm where the instruments arc across a larger soundscape where the saxophone can mine circular motifs as on the opening track “Photonectes Gracilis” and the guitar and cello can add pointillist commentary gradually filling in the available space, building to a section of alarming sounds before dynamically dropping down to near silence. This is followed by “Eustomias Trewavasae” which has raucous fast paced chirping that develops into a frantically bowed and blown improvisation. The group uses their instruments to make sounds that you would not normally associate with them, creating a wide range of textures and hues that are very impressive to hear. There is a very exciting and frenetic collective improvisation developed on “Neonesthes Capensis” with extremely fast paced bowing and picking met by flurries of saxophone, not necessarily at high volume but with a sense of forward motion brought about by the speed of the playing. Wild sounds that are akin to a mis-tuned radio open “Opostomias Micripnus” throwing the music into varying degrees of light and shade with ominous squeals and clicks adding to the overall atmosphere of the music, before moving into a more conventional if not any less intense conclusion to the piece. The finale “Echiostoma Barbatum” pulls together all of the aspects of the recording with raw and unfettered free improvisation broken at times with spacey open interludes. This is a fine conclusion to a very good album of challenging free improvisation. The playing of the instrumentalists is first rate and they are completely locked in and engaged with the material at hand.


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