Cold Bleak Heat: Simitu

Cold Bleak Heat
Family Vineyard

This second album from the high-powered free-jazz foursome known as Cold Bleak Heat slips intervals of lyric introspection into its chaotic rampages. The quartet includes improv heavyweights and long-time collaborators Paul Flaherty (saxophone) and Chris Corsano (drums). Here, as before Greg Kelley (of free-improv nmpergign and rock-leaning Heathen Shame) joins on altered, amplified trumpet, and Matt Heyner, whose main gig is NNCK, plays subtly chaotic stand-up bass. The four of them work in conjunction, but never unison, their instruments colliding, coexisting, complementing but not exactly playing together. There’s a white-hot furious complication in opener “The Voice of the People Is the Voice of God”, a cut that opens with Corsano’s quiet furor of drums, punctuated by bows and squeals and screeches from Heyner on bass. Dense, layered and yet almost buoyantly light, the piece picks up textures as it goes, a tribal chant, a shimmer of cymbals, high squalling trumpet and saxophone in combat, filling in the spaces around each other with chaos. The cut is all rush and technical prowess, player egging each other on to ever more daring feats as they go. It’s exhilarating, yet pales beside album highlight “Mugged by a Glacier”. The opening is the disc’s most pensive interval, Flaherty oscillating thoughtfully among a handful of notes, Kelley’s muted trumpet thread-thin in the background. Just under the surface, Heyner carefully spaced bass plucks and swells converge with the merest hint of cymbal (Corsano sticks skitter just over the crown). The piece thickens, picks up momentum and swagger, as Flaherty executes guttural runs and flourishes, and Corsano runs scatter-shot over the toms. You can hear a conversation, not always linearly connected but aware, among the players, as a high skirling trumpet squall evokes similar fury from the sax, a chaotic interval on drums dares the bass to rampage likewise. It’s four minds working independently with no net — not a common motif or melody or even time signature to hold them together. An adrenaline rush of a record, with arresting intervals of stillness.

RATING 8 / 10