Samuel Goff Diminished Borders

Samuel Goff’s ‘Diminished Borders’ Is a Manic, Introspective Free Jazz Trip

Drums and dual saxophones create an atmosphere that invites frenetic pacing and meditative peace on Samuel Goff, Camila Nebbia, and Patrick Shiroishi’s Diminished Borders.

Diminished Borders
Samuel Goff / Camila Nebbia / Patrick Shiroishi
Cacophonous Revival
17 November 2023

Lovers of post-bop free jazz will feel a twinge of welcome familiarity when “Chaos Control”, the first track on Diminished Borders, begins. Drummer Samuel Goff counts off, and soon he’s all over his kit, while saxophonists Camila Nebbia and Patrick Shiroishi trade freewheeling notes and riffs back and forth. It’s beautiful, well-worn territory for fans of free jazz. But it’s only the tip of the iceberg for this terrific, eight-track collaboration, courtesy of Goff’s diverse Cacophonous Revival label.

Recorded in Los Angeles, Richmond, Virginia, and Lyon, France, Diminished Borders brings together these three multitalented, eclectic performers known for creating wide-ranging albums on their own and thus benefit from an even broader artistic canvas as a trio. Nebbia, an Argentinian saxophonist, composer, and visual artist currently based in Berlin, contributes spoken word to the quiet, tense, barely contained “Esperando Que Todo Desaparezca”, as both saxophones squeal in desperation and Goff’s drumming takes a minimalist approach.

Diminished Borders is primarily inspired by Spit Temple, a book that serves as an overview of the work of seminal multidisciplinary artist Cecilia Vicuña. The book collects texts and transcriptions of Vicuña’s improvised performances, which combine singing, movement, chants, and stories. On Diminished Borders, the song “Spit Temple” pays tribute as an immense exercise in catharsis. Goff’s drums are loud and brash as he yells and spits out manic gibberish. Nebbia’s outbursts are more controlled but seem filtered through effects or her saxophone. It’s gutting, exciting, primal, and impossible to ignore or predict.

The heavily percussive, primal sounds of “Where Borders Shift” take a somewhat similar yet vocal-free path as the saxophones adopt a more melodic but no less urgent approach. There’s an otherworldly, floating-in-space feel to the appropriately titled “Listening to Quasars”, as the gurgling saxophones sound like alien transmissions with Goff’s manic drumming the glue holding everything together, even as the free jazz squalls become more pronounced towards the song’s finale.

Diminished Borders’ longest track, “Metaphors in Space”, sees the saxophones taking more of an active role, with long, sustained notes interspersed with feedback, noise effects, and occasional atonal bursts. Goff once again comes in only when needed, providing washes of cymbal, hi-hat, and percussion here and there. It’s perhaps the most atmospheric, adventurous track on a record with more than its fair share of those.

Diminished Borders closes with the gentle, meditative “A Thousand Tiny Fibers Dissolving in Air”, a relatively uncluttered piece that allows all three musicians to give each other space. The track is somewhat reminiscent of “Psalm”, the fourth and final movement of John Coltrane‘s A Love Supreme, as the rolling toms and lyrical saxophone notes give the album a sense of closure and clarity.

In the liner notes, Cecilia Vicuña is described as having often written about borders and how they can dictate fate and often mean life or death. With this exciting, genre-defying album, Samuel Goff, Camila Nebbia, and Patrick Shiroishi hope to diminish these borders.

RATING 8 / 10