“Follow the white rabbit”, we’re told. Well, maybe we should but for sure we’re taken on a journey through a strange Wonderland here on this experimental saxophone-driven jazz prog collection from French quartet DRH.
Sometimes it’s good not to have a point of reference, even though DRH do acknowledge the spirit of King Crimson, Periphery and Zappa in their work. Having no point of reference means no pre-conceived ideas. DRH help us on our way with this delusional acid style – again I am borrowing their own analogy here. We float away in this rather odd world of sound distortions. There is structure in this instrumental world. The sax slithers and there’s an aura deep dementia. “Fooled” had an element of Ephel Duath in its anarchy but it doesn’t sound like the Italians. In fact the twisting sound conveys the sense of a Middle Eastern bazaar. The construction is clever as underneath it is an array of sounds and aromas. Sometimes it’s heavy but most of the time it’s suggestive and dreamy. The title track has more than an air of a smoky jazz club. The developing drama suggests there is danger. A Haken-like guitar passage, accompanied by the manic sax, suggests that we are drifting still further down a slippery slope. Back and forth it goes, as each vividly coloured passage makes a new and mysterious statement. At its heart is a sound like a ticking clock or heartbeat, which provides an underscore to the dark mystery. “The Path” takes us on a walk, or at least what I imagined to be a walk, through tree-lined woods. The acoustic line is calming. Without words there’s no suggestion as to what we should think so it is all left to the imagination. Suddenly it goes dark before we take on another tack, with the sax working as ever outside the boundaries while we stay on the path. It’s challenging and intriguing. I really liked “The Path”.
This album comprises four recorded and two live tracks. I was used to the pattern by the time the live tracks came, so a longish jazzy sax and bass guitar solo was not unexpected. “Black Chewing Gum” is as retro as ever, sounding if anything like something between Canvas Solaris and a hazy 1960s or 1970s progscape. As I listened to “Smoking Bluffer” I found myself firmly back in the smoky jazz club. It’s either that or I’m listening to the background music to some weird, avant-garde drama, leaving aside the rather strange a capella ending. Either way this is born of mental stimulants, sensations and images.
Without doubt “Thin Ice” comes from the artistic end of the spectrum. I’m not particularly a jazz lover myself but there’s so much more than this. By absorbing myself in it, I conjured up a riot of images in my mind. This is a highly creative and very enjoyable work.
(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)