Basher - Doubles Music Album Reviews

Basher - Doubles Music Album Reviews
Having added a second drummer and a synth player since its 2018 debut, New Orleans’ self-described “free-jazz party band” vacillates between abandon and unease.

In New Orleans, it rains every day in the summer. The mornings are bright and beautiful, the sky a surreal and optimistic blue filled with towering clouds, which by afternoon give way to violent grays and gashes of lightning. When the storm has finished its 20-minute rage, the soft colonial buildings of the French Quarter sparkle with light, and the Mardi Gras beads perennially stuck in the oaks of St. Charles Avenue blink like jewels. It is unbearably beautiful. It is miserably hot. It is an impractical climate to live in. It is precisely what Basher’s new album sounds like.

Doubles is the second LP from the New Orleans “free-jazz party band,” following 2018’s 100% Humidity, but it feels like the kind of identity-staking work you expect from a debut. In the four years since 100% Humidity, the group added a second drummer and a synthesizer player and fundamentally reshaped their sound, juicing up the dark-night jazz into a somewhat slick, free-ranging, and surprisingly expressive music that could be played everywhere from the packed clubs of Frenchman St. to a secret house show in St. Roch to the apron of the Superdome on game day. Despite that winsomeness, Doubles is soaked in disappointment and clouded by tragedy, its undeniable joys always gated by the expectation that they’ll be ripped away without notice.

Such competing dualisms reveal themselves in multiple ways: not just in the freedom of improvisation versus the control of form, or in the celebration of life and the mourning of its compromises, but also in the album’s structure itself. Doubles mostly alternates between small-group improvisations for alto and tenor sax and synthesizer, and tightly structured jazz-funk songs powered by a pair of drummers. At times it can feel like the two sides of the band are in conversation with one another. In the improvised “Artemis,” alto saxophonist Aurora Nealand pinches her tone until it sounds like a crying trumpet, quivering in response to the dry breaths and clicks of tenor saxophonist Byron Asher. The shuffle-strut of “Carnival 2019” is turned around and backed up by the two drummers, patiently building its way to revelry with stabs of horn and flashy tightness in a way that recalls the legendary Lundi Gras sets of local funk heroes Galactic. An overblown version of the song’s melody line comes ripping through the parade sirens and daiquiri rush of synth in the following “Borealis,” a visceral rendering of how quickly the excesses of Carnival season can turn into a total loss of control in the blur of deep gras.

These overflowing, abundant moments are rare on Doubles. The improvisations are mostly restrained and responsive, if a touch tentative. Asher and Nealand’s careful attention to one another’s playing at times can be too deferential; it can feel as if the tracks have been daubed in gray to keep the brightest lights from shining through. In a similar way, the traditionally composed songs are orderly and well drilled; “Claptrap Clapback” is a study in staying on task even as Daniel Meinecke’s synths whistle and whirr.

Still, there are moments when the band’s two sides merge. A couple of minutes into the stately funk of “Primetime a Go-Go,” the two drummers pull apart and expand the song’s boundaries, giving Asher and Nealand enough room to back away from one another and push off down what become wildly separate paths, the two discordant solos unrolling over a cut-and-thrust rhythm. You don’t even notice how high in the rafters they’ve taken you until they guide your feet back onto the ground.

It’s easy to want Basher to go the full Mwandishi, to not only test the limits of their concept but blow right past them; you sense that these songs were built to do just that in a live setting. But as a studio work, Doubles is more interested in maintaining a level of unease that is endemic to New Orleans culture. The humid blues of “Ponchatoula” pulses with mourning and the feeling of joy squandered, with Asher letting out a satin braid of a solo that flashes and dims as the band guides it through the changes. New Orleans musicians have been writing storm-dampened songs like “Refinery Skies” for a hundred years, and maybe longer; like the light that shines through the polluted air of the oil facilities across the Mississippi River, the music’s incredible beauty is the direct product of the malignancy of the environment.

New Orleans loves a good time. But for longtime residents, the thrills can often feel like meager recompense for the exhaustions of climate, crime, and—since Katrina, at least—a horde of transplants eager to be redeemed by the Big Easy’s legendary juju. Doubles pays tribute both to the city’s abundant spirit and to its complicated legacy. Decay creeps into this album’s brightest moments, making these songs feel a little distant, a little difficult to love for the way they seem to keep the party at bay.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Basher - Doubles Music Album Reviews Basher - Doubles Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on October 19, 2022 Rating: 5


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