Large Unit- “Ana”_First Impressions

Ana cover art

Just gonna say it: this cover sucks

(https://pnlrecords.bandcamp.com/album/ana)

On their new album “Ana,” Norwegian outfit Large Unit showcase composition prowess and promising intentions, but seem to fail at attaining the production flare required for great album creation in 2016.  There are some great moments in free jazz.  Drum echoes turn into avant-garde, groove-like states.  Electronics and horns alike improvise in exciting ways with quite motives developing into chaotic collective improvisations.

The ensemble uses it’s members well creating cells of communication.  The first song leaves a soprano saxophone alone with a drum set.  On the second song a small crew of trumpets and tubas bounce ideas of each other and another sax player works with the bassist for a bit.  Despite these smaller cells of improvisation, It seems like the ensemble values shocking chaos over the build-up preceding the climax, which may have something to do with the group’s size.  By requiring 14 musicians, four of them percussionists, to improvise on every song the group compromises on subtlety.  It is just too hard to develop your ideas to the point where it is appropriate to be joined by the rest of the ensemble resulting in the feeling that a solo ends and suddenly the whole ensemble is going crazy in a way that doesn’t accomplish musicality.

The biggest issue with the album for me was the production.  Jazz is not usually a genre that experiments with production tactics a whole lot but the album comes across as bland in comparison to the overall sound of say a Flying Lotus record.  Although there are two Tubas and a bassist, the bass line simply didn’t come across as powerful.  Also the higher pitched instruments come across as a bit nasally at points.

Simply put, my first impression was “this album is bland.”  The composition techniques and improvisational nature spark interest and I believe that the members of the band are talented and would yield a fantastic live performance, but I just didn’t feel like the album itself had a high level of re-listening potential.

Maybe I’ll be swayed when I’m more familiar with the whole album.

DB

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