At times exotic and ethereal, as it combines progressive free improvisation with rock elements and electronics, INTI, the February release from Machine Mass, has a charismatic sound that is all its own. In its current constellation, the ensemble is a trio with a base of Tony Bianco on drums, loops and percussion and Michel Delville on guitar, Roland GR09 and electronics, and with the masterful Dave Liebman joining in on soprano and tenor sax and wooden flute for this, their second recording. Liebman who has played with the likes of Miles Davis and Elvin Jones makes himself right at home in this tight exploratory set. It is a combination that begs to carry on, and Delville, in the liner notes suggests it will.
He describes the trio’s work as “a sonic laboratory where improvisation and tight, complex rhythmic compositions can interact with each other until such distinctions become largely irrelevant, at least from the listener’s perspective.” While this may be true from the musician’s point of view, the listener unable to marvel at the soloists’ ability to work their way around the rhythmic soundscape may be hard to discover. Indeed, as Delville continues, “the real challenge was to improvise over complex chord, rhythm and time changes while handling live electronics and computer loops,” a challenge it is difficult for the listener to ignore, but a challenge which the trio embraces.
Of the album’s nine tracks, eight are original compositions by members of the ensemble either individually or in varying combinations. One is a cover of “In a Silent Way,” a tune best known from the Miles Davis recording of the same name. Liebman plays wood flute and Delville the sitar on the track, and they combine for a truly exotic mystical sound, over some dynamic persussion.
Vocalist Saba Tewelde is featured on a tune called “The Secret Place,” otherwise all the tracks are instrumentals. “Elisabeth,” at nearly 13 minutes, is the longest piece on the disc, and its complexities justify the length. Its fresh musical ideas are of the kind to keep listeners enthralled. But then it is hard to find a track that doesn’t. Readers can get a good idea of Machine Mass on its label, MoonJune’s site. If you like the kind of forward looking jazz that seeks new ways to expand the vocabulary of the genre, you’ll want to hear what this trio is doing.