May 17, 2018
Already international in its membership, the now six-piece Amsterdam-based Spinifex band is doing the EU one better by adding Belgian trumpeter Bart Maris and American tenor saxophonist John Dikeman to the group consisting of alto saxophonist Tobias Klein and drummer Philipp Moser, originally from Germany, Portuguese bass guitarist Gonçalo Almeida and guitarist Jasper Stadhouders, the lone Netherlander.
While further attesting to improvised music’s universality, Amphibian Ardour’s 10 tracks vibrate with the same mix of animation and atonality that characterized the band’s earlier discs. Dikeman, who has played with William Parker and Hamid Drake and Maris who seems to have worked with just about ever improviser in Europe, may sometimes add a bit more stridency to the tunes, mostly composed by Almeida and Klein, but this tendency only confronts the stream roller-like dynamism of the rhythm section.
Often as well Maris’ capillary brassiness gives way to rounded flutter tonguing as on “Things That Occur”, upsetting the narrative in a congenial fashion. If undulating pulses, propelled with armored tank bellicosity by Stadhouders, Almeida and Moser skirt Metal and Rock thudding, then the trumpeter’s sometimes weightless tones provide the balance. Added to these new dynamics, and how Spinifex maintains its freshness as well as its efficacy, is the band’s adaptation of Middle Eastern tunes such as “Zikr” and “Dhamal Qalandar Shabaz” to its own aims. “Zikr” is most notable for how Klein corkscrews irregular vibrations among the joyous narrative. However “Dhamal Qalandar Shabaz” opens up other possibilities. With Almeida’ bass guitar pacing retaining ethnic-music roots, Stadhouders’s chukka-chukka sweeps and twisted fuzztones vary between traditional zither-like scraping and lead guitar-focused Rock patterns. At the same time, the reed vamps and Maris jubilant obbligatos could fit in with much music produced by a traditional wedding band.
Overall the often banda-style arrangements are brassy and bouncy enough to maintain exuberance, though the stop-time and stop-start conceptions move far past simple entertainment. Extended showcases such as the title track and “Doppio Nudo Dal Niente” extend mainstream considerations to something more. For instance “Amphibian Ardour” wraps New Thing-like snarks from the reeds and rat-tat-tats from the drums with Morse code-like plinks from the strings and mosquito-like bites from the trumpeter. Renal-styled alto saxophone cries and flattement plus the trumpet’s capillary accelerations alternate with percussion thumps and Metal-like guitar licks until the riffs from both sides are harmonized. Expressed in even higher pitches from alto saxophone slurs and tenor saxophone smears with asides from knob-twisting and string-scrubbing guitar textures, the thematic interconnection on “Doppio Nudo Dal Niente” comes via tremolo trumpet tones. Multiphonic enough to nearly blast off into distant space in its final minutes the tune impresses with how it’s anchored by a steady backbeat.
Changing trumpeters and adding a saxophonist has strengthened Spinifex’s game. Plus its all-encompassing joyous appeal is still maintained.
Track Listing: 1, Bohemians Gone Extragalactic 2. Dhamal Qalandar Shabaz 3. Things That Occur 4. Losing One Object a Day 5. Revathi Tillana 6. Doppio Nudo Dal Niente 7. Pegasus 8. Amphibian Ardour 9. Zikr 10. Icarus
Personnel: Bart Maris (trumpet); Tobias Klein (alto saxophone); John Dikeman (tenor saxophone); Jasper Stadhouders (guitar); Gonçalo Almeida (bass guitar) and Philipp Moser (drums)