Travis Laplante & Peter Evan, ‘Secret Meeting’

Posted by on July 12, 2017

secret meeting

NNA Tapes, 2.5.2016

The nature of Peter Evans and Travis Laplante’s dialogue on Secret Meeting is, naturally, secret, encrypted in a code of horns. Remaining is the record — four pieces that rise and fall in swells of codependent exuberance and exasperation, each coming from and returning to nothing. The only clues are tones, their blithe abandon suggesting the stakes have been dispensed with, or else the interlocutors have gone mad.

Secret Meeting plays out on Evans’ grounds. More recognizable than the mindful drone of Laplante’s sax quartet, Battle Trance, and his other endeavors, is Evans’ distinct discord, heard reliably throughout his ever-expanding oeuvre. Despite this, Laplante sustains his signature feats of Olympic breathing and eternal arpeggios, transmogrified to endure the manic scrambles and falls.

Secrecy though, demands speculation. At times Secret Meeting suggests its speakers are conversing in the realm of the political, with measured notes breaking into bluster as each horn escalates above the other with developing but increasingly off-the-rails refrains. Elsewhere sultry tones and unmistakable smooches, on “Nothing Is What It Seems” in particular, suggest more lascivious goings on. Occasionally sustained hums and hosannas signify the conspiring of the holy. But then again this meeting could be nothing more portentous than adolescent play.

Both players are withholding in their introductions in the opener, “After the End,” simply yawning to life in ghostly murmurs until well past the five-minute mark, when reservation gives way to an upward spiral of dialogue. Laplante breaks off to riff out cartoons of jazz, ignoring Evans’ continued assault completely. The resulting contrast of disparate meanderings following a streak of unison is one of the duo’s greatest improvisational assets, deployed just shy of not too often. Balance is restored when lines are crossed in the tangle and twist together, coalescing in knots around a phrase or in the neighborhood of a note.

Following what could be a very drunken take on the famous “Taps” bugle call, “After the End” continues on in a series of struggles for dominance. The matches escalate to spins blurring instrumental distinction until, enervated, the contestants collapse into one another and amble to and ending.

Reluctance again introduces “Nothing Is What It Seems,” but here a jocular absurdity and the aforementioned pecks unnerve. An eavesdropper might question whether she’s hearing the coded babble of humans or even anything earthly. The track never fully escalates to the dizzying heights scaled elsewhere, but despite its relative repose, dreamier depths are breached before silence claims the sound.

In “Secret Meeting,” the title vignette, a rare solemnity builds atmosphere. Here is noir with a twist, an oddity that might have suited Godard’s Alphaville had it been improvised 50 years prior. The prodigious arpeggios again flail off on their own but maintain the same syncopation and meet, wonderfully, on the same note here and there amidst the swarm. How Laplante and Evans manage such exact coordination inspires the want for further documentation of their surreptitious encounter.

“Sand” closes the meeting with apt Sphinxian mystery. Empty winds blow as if searching for valves to channel their direction. Once established, the context is an (almost) melodic resignation, the hint of agreement and closure beginning to coalesce. A final storm is conjured, though this time Laplante and Evans maintain their series of repetitions in synchronicity, twisting in unison to a final, amicable quiet.

Secret Meeting‘s greatest sleight of hand is how easy the absence of an ensemble slips by. This untethered leap is its fulcrum and Laplante and Evans show no vertigo in their coverage of their autonomy. We can only hope for more dispatches leaked from their sub rosa hideaway.