Ricart/Millevoi Quartet, ‘Haitian Rail’

Posted by on October 8, 2013


Gaffer Records/New Atlantis Records, 8/13/2013

There is a menacing quality to free jazz that suggests creative acts are not fully borne through clear, intuitive sequences, but also through violent flares and truncations. Bassist Edward Ricart and guitarist Nick Millevoi lead their quartet through rattling subversions of peaceful intuition on their Gaffer Records and New Atlantis début, Haitian Rail. Collaborating with saxophonist Travis Laplante and drummer Ches Smith, Ricart and Millevoi embrace the creative dynamics of unrestrained flares. As a result, their musicianship and group energy jumps through the speakers, delivered on six pieces that serve as terrifying, accurate strikes against the boundaries of noise and jazz.

The Ricart/Millevoi Quartet begin their LP with a surprising nod to a jazz tradition, playing set riffs or brief compositions that match guitar and sax and bass and drums to introduce the solos. The quartet begin and end “Linive” with these thematic riffs, tethering their explosive outbursts to signs and maps that guide their listener. By grouping these riffs and compositions on “Linive,” the quartet builds a series of themes that return throughout the album, specifically the grouping of high and low frequencies within the same performance cycles. Similarly, “Ankadreman” and “Coqueternions” use matched riffs to lead into extended solo sequences or blistering shredding. With these opening techniques, the players establish an improvisational/compositional space that allows them to deliver their flares within set environments. This also allows the quartet to sharpen their attack during their noisiest sequences.

Similarly, silence and restraint color the performances, allowing the unforgiving saxophone shrieks and picked and percussive attacks to maintain a stabbing, alarming sound. Specifically, “Not a Memory” features a spare sax solo, offsetting one of the most traditional bass riffs of the album. “Primitive Rings,” the album’s second song, intersperses an anxious, tense quiet against “Linive” and “Ankadreman,” using an ascending, high-register noise to present an off-setting vacation or diversion from the denser performances. These instances of silence and restraint are used to transition between performances and highlight solos, separating them from the wicked mass of the noisier segments.

Ultimately, the players trounce their restraint with passages of accelerating intensity. Ricart plays his Ampeg-driven bass with a rowdy, nearly-fuzzed tone, using low register cycles to match the airy reserve of Smith’s drums. Ricart and Smith frequently build off one another, as Smith’s nimble transitions between his cymbals, fills, and beat-keeping match Ricart’s leads. On the other end of the spectrum, Laplante’s ear piercing shrieks serve as a counterpart to Millevoi’s crystal clear guitar tone, which is percussive, trebly, and aggressive. Millevoi’s guitar tone stabs against Ricart’s warmer bass, and the frequency contradictions allow both players to showcase their contributions without muddying the mix. As Smith and Laplante round out the spectrum, the group presents a dynamic, clear sound that enhances their noise.

The quartet use “Solarism,” “Ankadreman,” and “Linive” to continuously outmatch the pace and frequency of their solos. These spaces of continuous noise build layers of sound that completely oppose ambiance and drone, instead thriving on sheer energy and creating a sound that consistently presents sharp lines or truncations. The momentary breaths of fresh air roaming between each of the players and their passages, allow each member to produce the most sound possible in short bursts. As these bursts extend and overlap, the collaborative energy leads to sheets of dissonance, missed connections, epiphanies, and glorious excavations. The quartet unearth unexpected meeting points passing through their frequencies and leads, using their tones, technique, and interactions to create distinct spaces. Through these spaces, the quartet build layers of noise and accomplish a level of intensity that never diminishes.

On Haitian Rail, the Ricart/Millevoi quartet use their performances to present a statement of creativity that burns with intensity. The players accomplish tones and interactions that are menacing, energetic, and sprawling. Their ability to restrain their noise sequences with moments of silence and nods to traditional riffing techniques allows them to produce free jazz that converses with noise and rock traditions. Haitian Rail mirrors the skronk of Obnox or Richie Records, while meeting the velocity, volume, and anonymity of live synthetic noise performances. That the Ricart/Millevoi quartet maintain precision and dynamics throughout their collaboration showcases the creative power of jazz performances, while also destroying the boundaries between noise and jazz.