Sam Gendel - Blueblue Music Album Reviews

Sam Gendel - Blueblue Music Album Reviews
On a softly melancholic new album, the Los Angeles musician offers a concentration of his strengths in service of one sharpened, sustained mood.

Years before Sam Gendel was one of the main fixtures of Los Angeles’ bubbling ambient jazz scene, he was the frontman of a quiet little outfit called Inga. Though the group barely had any releases to its name, Inga’s performances were twisting and spontaneous, as Gendel wove his way through lopsided bossa-nova patterns with his understated, fluttering guitar technique. To watch them play was like watching a hunched caterpillar sneaking its way through the grass, each modal jump as oddly angled as it was delicately naturalistic. Since then, Gendel has primarily focused on his solo output, building his kooky sound world around mellowed out hip-hop beats and his psychedelic, Jon Hassell-indebted approach to saxophone. But on Blueblue, Gendel returns to the guitar as his primary vehicle once again, taking everything he’s learned in the intervening years and yielding one of his most richly rewarding sets in the process.

Gendel has earned a reputation for his ability to distill disorienting free-jazz experiments into something that goes down smoother than iced tea, but following his output can still be daunting. Between his endless stream of collaborations and his willingness to bury some of his best material in sprawling 3-and-a-half-hour compilations, Gendel gives the sense that music simply pours out of him—that it’s as easy for him to create as it is for us to listen to. Blueblue, however, benefits from precision: Its 14 tracks are concise, writhing creations, often revolving around just a few stray elements caressing against one another to build a distinct, unified sound. Recorded in a cabin in Oregon overlooking the Columbia River, Blueblue ebbs back and forth like a body of water unto itself. Where Gendel’s previous work has often tended toward jarring stylistic leaps from track to track, Blueblue remains satisfying by sticking with its calm frame of mind, as Gendel dives in to see just how much he can find.

Born from a collaboration with a Japanese clothing company that works with traditional sashiko embroidery, each track of Blueblue is titled in kanji after a different stitching pattern within the style. Though this titling scheme comes off more like a tired aesthetic appropriation, the music itself is executed much more gracefully. Where on previous albums Gendel would often push his squiggling saxophone lines into as many atonal places as he could take them without totally killing the vibe, here his guitar playing is soothing, even inviting, in its softly melancholic strum. “Tate-jima (縦縞, vertical stripes)” opens the record on an intimate note, as Gendel’s unadorned guitar inches along as if he were playing it lying on his back, his eyes grazing the bedroom ceiling. Even on minimal tracks such as this, there’s a textural coarseness to the sound, pulsing with a cassette-tape warmth without losing its bassy, hypnotic depth.

Aside from Craig Weinrib’s pitter-pattering drums, Gendel performed all of Blueblue’s instruments himself, and he deserves just as much credit for his skills as an arranger as he does for his musicianship. As he fingerpicks through the breezy “Toridasuki (鳥襷, interlaced circles of two birds),” a glowing bed of harmonized horns slowly enters, the jittering saxophone never overtaking the track as it glides through one sublime chord change after another. Gendel fills Blueblue with these kind of luminescent details, be it the fairy-tale chimes that hover about “Hishi-igeta (菱井桁, parallel diamonds or crossed cords),” or the tense synthetic strings that lend a horror-movie eeriness to “Tate-waku (竪沸く, rising steam),” or the phantasmagoric flute that careens over “Shippō (七宝, seven treasures of the Buddha)” like some brightly plumed bird soaring over a cliffside. Oftentimes, Gendel luxuriates in a surreal sense of unease, as on the standout “Uroko (鱗, fish scales),” which lurches on a slanted guitar groove and a chorus of beeping synths that flicker on and off like machines in some evil laboratory.

There have been times where Gendel’s dazed approach to slacker jazz has given his music a low-stakes quality, where its effectiveness as good background listening has betrayed a deeper lack of focus. But his latest feels like a purposeful statement, a concentration of his strengths as an instrumentalist in service of one sharpened, sustained mood. In a way, Blueblue plays like Gendel’s tribute to exploratory, late-night jazz records like Andrew Hill’s Judgment! or Bill Evans and Jim Hall’s Undercurrent, swirling about untethered as if searching for a place to rest. Those albums remain enduring today not only for their willingness to experiment, but for how much emotion their creators were able to express using only their instruments and their wit. With Blueblue, Gendel sounds like he is finally learning how to let feeling guide the way.
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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.
Sam Gendel - Blueblue Music Album Reviews Sam Gendel - Blueblue Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on October 21, 2022 Rating: 5


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