THE DARK PATTERN
Virtually all art is built on conventions. Only the brave or foolish strip them away, because of the danger only a vacuum will remain. On this deeply mysterious double-album Phil Slater applies some of the language of jazz, while often inverting accepted customs of groove, harmony and melodic narrative. The resultant minimalism, which often seeps, insinuates or tinkles its way into the mind, is a cousin of the Necks’ improvisations, although arrived at via compositions and preconceived sound-worlds.
Having assembled a band capable of matching his own bristling invention, Slater has asked saxophonist Matt Keegan, pianist Matt McMahon, bassist Brett Hirst and drummer Simon Barker to exercise a restraint that’s the opposite of the in-your-face musicianship of much jazz. Not only do they eliminate all traces of brash “me-ism”, they’ve made their individual expression entirely subservient to Slater’s fresh vision of collective music-making. His own trumpet, which has illuminated so much music with its silver shards of highly charged emotion, here is mostly constrained to more pewter-hued moods, lines and sounds. Then, when he or another player does break the shackles, the impact is profound.