The Kandinsky Effect CD Release: Synesthesia
Posted on June 11, 2013Conceived on Pariss cosmopolitan jazz scene, forged on the road in America, and informed by international currents in electronic music, The Kandinsky Effect is a jazz power trio for the 21st century. The trans-Atlantic band, based in New York City and Paris, makes its Cuneiform debut with Synesthesia, a roller-coaster ride of an album marked by fierce grooves, subtle electronic textures, intricate metrical shifts, and a commitment to empathic group interplay.
Featuring Warren Walker on saxophone and electronics, bassist Gal Petrina, and drummer Caleb Dolister, The Kandinsky Effect explores a distinctive swath of sonic territory, inspired by similarly electronica-laced ensembles like Kneebody and Jaga Jazzist. With a long history as a cutting edge format, the saxophone, bass and drums trio is usually employed by horn players looking to explore harmonically unfettered improvisation. The Kandinsky Effect finds a different kind of freedom in the lack of a chordal instrument.
Steeped in improvisation and various post-bop vocabularies, the trio has honed a sound described by the Los Angeles Times as bracing, electronically tweaked jazz. Its an approach that erases distinction between front line and rhythm section, as all three musicians constantly direct the musics flow.
I didnt start with any kind of a theory or concept, says Walker, 32, who wrote eight of the albums 11 tracks. This is what I wanted to hear. As a saxophone player, oftentimes you play the head and the solo, and then youre out while the band plays on. When I started the band, I wanted to use the effects so that I was fully engaged with the band all the time, where I can comp, add chords and noises."
The album opens with the rough and tumble Johnny Utah, which has little to do with Keanu Reeves surfer/FBI agent in the beloved 1991 film Point Break, except maybe a brooding sense of momentum, a relentless drive enhanced by clattering percussion breaks. Like several of Walkers tunes M.C. moves sleekly through a series of sections, each built upon a different rhythmic theme or motif. In the same way, Walking sounds more like a series of helter-skelter sprints over broken ground than a leisurely stroll. One of our goals when we play through odd time meters is to give it as much fluidity as possible, Dolister says. We try and work on ways to keep the changing meters from being too jarring. A lot of that has to do with how we write and approach playing together. When we encounter a section thats a little to weird we rework it so its more cohesive.
One of the ways to approach odd time meters is to not make it feel so jaggedy, Dolister says. We work really hard so the music doesnt come across as jarring. A lot of that has to do with how we write and approach playing together. When we encounter a section thats a little to weird we rework it so its cohesive.
While the band excels at acceleration, The Kandinsky Effect also knows how to slow down, playing melodies that ooze and saunter. On Walkers Cusba, the band displays a knack for mysterious balladry, with a coolly disquieting theme. The atmosphere gets thicker on WK51 with the clattering march-time snare chatter building cinematic tension, the coiled calm before a deadly confrontation. The album closes with If Only, another ominously serpentine line with subtle layered effects that make it clear the trio has absorbed lessons from Bjork, Squarepusher, and Aphex Twin in developing a lapidary but spacious sound. With purely acoustic instruments, sonic vocabulary is somewhat limited to the available tambours and polyphonic capabilities of each specific instrument, Dolister says. For example, with the saxophone you would typically only play one pitch at a time. But with a lot of the effects we use, were creating harmonic layers, and tweaking the tones. The result is we get a lot more sound and we get to mimic some of the electronic music we like.
The Kandinsky Effect came together in Paris in 2007 when Walker, Petrina and drummer Gautier Garrigue started performing together as the Warren Walker Trio. The process of fully rechristening itself took about a year. Casting about for a moniker that reflected the bands collective nature, they reluctantly borrowed the surname of the seminal Russian abstract painter. After a brief spell as the Kandinsky Trio, the band realized that a long-running chamber ensemble already existed with that name, which led to its current tag.
The Kandinsky Effect released an eponymous debut album on SNP Records in 2010 that earned enthusiastic reviews. All About Jazz called The Kandinsky Effect an organic, forward-thinking record, noting that First and foremost, despite (or maybe because of) their disparate backgrounds, all three musicians are on the same page, and their communication on this record borders on the telepathic. Not long after the release came out, drummer Garrigue left the band. The SNP label was led by drummer/composer/producer Caleb Dolister, whom Walker knew from his college days in Reno.
Walker had wanted The Kandinsky Effect to tour more in North America, and Dolister, and now based in NYC, seemed an ideal choice to fill the drummer chair and provide a state-side anchor for the Parisian band. With Dolister on board, The Kandinsky Effect embarked in 2011 on extensive tours of the USA and Canada. It also performed that year at several prominent international jazz festivals, including the Reykjavik Jazz Festival in Iceland, and the Angel City Jazz Fest in Los Angeles, which garnered extensive press.
Over dozens of shows performed in North America and Europe, the well-travelled trio of Walker, Petrina and Dolister had honed their collective sound to a fine polish. In September 2011, the transatlantic met in a studio mid-way between New York and Paris " in Rejkavik, Iceland! " to record their new album. The result was Synesthesia, The Kandinsky Effects second release, and the groups first recordings on American-based, internationally-distributed Cuneiform Records. Featuring 11 captivating tracks (8 composed by Walker, 1 by Petrina and 2 by Dolister) that are simultaneously rhythmically gorgeous, groove-laden, compositionally interesting and immediately accessible, Synesthesia promises to spread the sensory magic of The Kandinsky Effects transatlantic jazz worldwide.
The Kandinsky Effect maintains an active performance calendar, appearing at both festivals and clubs worldwide. The group did a month-long tour of Canada and the USA in 2012, and will celebrate Cuneiforms release of Synesthesia with extensive European and North American tours in 2013.