Curator’s notes: Battle Trance and Randal Bravery

A word on the artists playing our next GateSound show on October 10.

A word on the artists playing our next GateSound show on October 10.

If you listen to four tenor saxophonists play together for long enough, how many different textures and timbres can you hear? I’m guessing everyone who listens to NYC quartet Battle Trance’s new album, Blade Of Love, will have a different answer to that by the time the first track is over. The album is a single long composition divided into three tracks, ranging from full-throated ensemble blasts to driving staccato melodies to hushed and breathy passages, but all the sounds come from saxophones, and occasionally from the members singing through their saxophones, using the instruments to modulate their voices. Battle Trance’s music will likely take on even more dimension when they bring this acoustic approach to the historic Gates of Heaven for our next GateSound concert, on October 10.

Not only has Battle Trance leader Travis Laplante created a beautifully thorny, far-flung composition on Blade Of Love, but the band has also gone out of its way to find a dizzying variety of ways to layer four saxophones together. Near the end of the first track, this builds into a spiraling flurry of notes that would suggest all four players are going off on an improvised outburst, but they keep going until you can hear just how orderly and deliberate it actually is. The third track makes prominent use of that voice-via-sax technique, which sounds a bit like one of those goofy “choir” synth patches but invested with a disarming warmth. Laplante and bandmates Patrick Breiner, Matt Nelson, and Jeremy Viner have demonstrated a formidable range of skill and technique here, but they always serve the tender, searching emotions behind even the composition’s most challenging and cacophonous moments.

It’s also worth noting that Breiner lived in Madison for a brief while, and during that time he helped start the Surrounded By Reality jazz series and during that time created some daring, atmospheric compositions of his own, some of them captured on a 2008 album he made under the name Vartan Mamigonian.

The night will start off with a set from Randal Bravery, a solo project of Milwaukee-based producer/synth player/vocalist Brandon Washington. Washington’s other activities lately including toruing and recording with hip-hop artist Milo and playing with Madison/Milwaukee psych-rock band Ion. His mostly-instrumental work as Randal Bravery reaches between hip-hop and strange, stretchy ambient music. The project’s latest release is a 13-track effort called Hamaon. Washington’s range is on full display here, from the melancholy synth track “Black Star-Platinum” to the fluttery, crunchy funk of “Suplex The Train.”

In the live setting, Randal Bravery becomes a bit more raw and unpredictable. Using a sampler and a mic, Washington conjures up all the sonic variety of the recorded work, but you might occasionally hear a reverb-slapped vocal roar split through it all. In addition to catching him live, it’s totally worth going through his earlier work, including The Crimson Future: Part One, an album he released in 2014 under the name Con Solo. Tracks like the abstracted but catchy “Futura Alterna” are what got me into his work in the first place.

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