Karl Latham suggests that fundamentally there is an air of Miles Davis’ electric period in many of his own compositions, and there is the same play on tension and distortion in Constellations, which includes six original compositions by Latham’s quartet, as well as six impressions of Bjork’s work.
Bjork’s artistry remains abundant in 2015, with art house flirtations at MOMA alongside her latest album, “Vulnicura.” As befits an artist in turmoil, it never hurts to see yourself as others see you (a la Spiegel in Speigel), especially when all is full of love. From the onset Latham sets the scene for his interpretation of Bjork’s work (all taken from her Volta: extra tracks album). His choice of personal compositions and their intriguing titles fit perfectly aside his Bjork interpretations, and the foursome present as proximal a Live Evil experience as is to be expected without the première force majeure of Davis.
“Hope,” the first track starts strikingly with drums, as does the original, and progresses to a lyrical trumpet feature by Ryan Carniaux , which follows the theme but doesn’t replace the “Bjork effect.” For devout Bjork fans, swapping kora for ‘pylonic’ riffs might be a space too far, to stretch a phrase, “It’s all about the space.” “Draco Rexus” is atmospheric electro-snowflake music, Mark Egan provides his signature bass quake and Carniaux is a plausible Davis as firebreathing dragon of the genus Hogwart’s variety, Nick Rolfe adds some nice textures.
“Wanderlust” is full-on Japanese space music, with extra bells and whistles. Drawbar effects warm the proceedings, and Carniaux blends a sound that comes off half Chris Botti, half Till Bronner. “Desired Constellation,” begins with a little bit of interstellar bone shaking followed by something like a DJ Krush,Toshinori Kondo synth-out, all stars illuminated on this warp factor ride, a real expansion on old school mind bending. “Frejya,” in Norse, the goddess of Love and War, interpreted by Latham as a space corridor of sound with shimmering allusions, presumably where the desired constellations reside.
“My Juvenile,” starts off a wall of heavy bass, twisting synths conjure a scene of austere adolescence. A lonely, lost sound dominates a haunting trumpet poem. “The Dull Flame Of Desire,” Bjork’s brassy, “eyes my dear, bracing glance” duet with Antony Hegarty is replaced with a searing duet of bass and trumpet which plays out with a “Demolition Man” style bass line (rummaging through your Sting albums yet? We see you). “Godhi” is foot to the floor bass pedal reverberations, a Tomita/Kondo-style “Tubular Bells” battle; hits the God particle for 21st Century pagans.
“I See Who You Are,” a weighty piece, emerges with whale-like aplomb, cymbal crashes, space warriors roaming, dusty packets of noodles circa 3500 float past circular viewing windows. A Love Supreme hinting at Return to Forever. Fender Rhodes gets the groove furrowed and so it goes, cue trumpet spot, drum fills, space synth overdose, the final frontier arrived at by the slow walking bass line, who knew? The Cylons (Galactica circa 1980).
“Alugsukat” a feel so old it sounds like the 80s might to teenagers now, a mighty groove moogathon. Rolfe’s keys throughout are reminiscent of a combination of Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. Eastern Greenland Eskimo folklore says that Auroras Borealis аrе thе souls οf stillborn babies. Thе Northern Illumination so-called “Alugsukat,” meaning a secret birth. “Hulda Folk” has that shapeshifting vibe we’re aware of in sci-fi movies, some divine creature stepping out of its human form to walk into an infinite slit doorway as they turn into a beam of light. (Hulda is Faroese for invisible ghosts. Apparently Hulda folk are part of Finnish and Orkney folklore, a sad tail/tale).
“Ostara” presents the final platform of Constellations to pronounce the diverse drum skills of Latham, includes an array of ambient noise, interference, jingly jangly drum rap, doo-dap-spit-tap-ting. A ‘proper’ Egan solo, fine Hancockian keys from Rolfe and a brighter trumpet solo injects optimism and a ticket back to reality. If Mark Egan wanted to riff on Mona Lisa in the style of Jaco Pastorius, this is it, “Wow” bass slides and extra noodling to finish. “Ostara,” Goddess of the Equinox, and where the word Easter comes from.
An album that rewards repeated listening.
Track Listing: Hope; Draco Rexus; Wanderlust; Desired Constellation; Frejya; My Juvenile; The Dull Flame Of Desire; Godhi; I See Who You Are; Alugsukat; Hulda Folk; Ostara.
Personnel: Karl Latham: drums, percussion; Mark Egan: electric bass: Nick Rolfe: keyboards; Ryan Carniaux: trumpet, flugelhorn.
Record Label: Double Moon Records
Style: Beyond Jazz