You can keep distilling your art to an essence, or you can expand it towards the vanishing point of infinity. High-calibre, late-career work may result either way. Rob Burke is the latter camp, and his recent output is both more gripping and more satisfying than his records of two decades ago. The Melbourne saxophonist/composer made this one in New York with guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Tom Rainey, and then handed the recordings to Ben Grayson, who spikes the cocktail with electronics and treatments.
The upshot, at its most intense, has tempests of distorted guitar, blizzards of drumming and flurries of rasping tenor saxophone converging into a vision of the apocalypse. But, just so you don’t go and hide in the basement, they restore some light to the sky with softer interludes, whether dancing and almost boppish, or swirling and atmospheric (a Monder specialty). In addition to Burke’s disparate compositions, there are four group improvisations, where the interaction is intense and sophisticated, and the electronics quite unnerving. Through it all Burke’s tenor sound has such a commanding presence as to blast a path to the foreground regardless of the sonic density.