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Golden, Casey: Atlas

When I last encountered the chamber jazz of Casey Golden, the piano player and band leader was working from his homeland, Australia. A relocation to London finds the composer teaming up with the trio of Alex Munk (guitar), Henrik Jensen (bass) and Will Glaser (drums) as they crack open Atlas and map out a remarkably patient display.

It’s the title track which begins the journey, the sedate pace disguising a surprisingly dextrous tumble of notes from both Golden’s piano and Munk’s guitar; a captivating dance played out for our delectation. Running to nearly nine minutes, the unexpected breakdown mid-song finds gentle placings of piano punctuations leaving just the right amount of space for a contradictorily reserved push of percussion. How Glaser can add such expulsions of beats and cymbal crashes and still somehow sound laid back, is anyone’s guess. It’s a trait he continues as the piece builds back up, the exuberant bass work from Jensen constructing ever higher formations for the electric guitar to pierce like the sun splitting the clouds. It’s an engaging opening, and one which barely even hints at the sparse remoteness of “Singularity”, which follows. There’s almost more space left between the notes than there is actual notes themselves as ever more threatening pulses rush forth only to recede quickly out of sight once more. The final two, or so, minutes of this seven-plus minute piece do offer a slightly more expected structure, but even here things remain dark and daring.

I often try to avoid simply ticking the boxes of commenting on every piece of music as an album reveals it, but on Atlas, there has been a huge amount of care and attention paid to the structure of the album as a whole, each previous piece laying the foundation for the counterpoint that follows. This expert placing of tracks locks you in place and holds you there, the spartan efforts of “Singularity” replaced by the roaming piano and shifting sounds of percussion that is “Still Life”, where a far busier formation still finds every stick-hit, string-strum and piano-placing to be plotted with real care and precision. It should then be no surprise that “The Hobbyist” decides our next destination should be unsettling and uncomfortable, surging scrapes of guitar interspersed with unnerving melody lines. “High Up” raises the tension further, but there’s a deeper dark undercurrent of melody sitting below, the piano paving the way for another unavoidably excellent outburst from Munk and his guitar.

From there “Christmas Carol” is a short, but much less twee than its name suggests, meander, before “The Good Fight” and “Everybody Else” dart from fresh and forceful to relaxed and reserved. A contradiction that sums up the sway of moods and ideas that still feel intrinsically linked as you flick through Atlas. It has to be said that the globe trotting adventures it has taken Casey Golden and his new collective of musicians on, is quite wonderful.

Track Listing
1. Atlas
2. Singularity
3. Still Life
4. The Hobbyist
5. High Up (Piano Intro)
6. High Up
7. Christmas Carol
8. The Good Fight
9. Everybody Else

Added: November 16th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Casey Golden @ bandcamp
Hits: 212
Language: english

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