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05/29/14

Brian Haas/Matt Chamberlain
Frames
The Royal Potato Family

“Birth,” the opening track off Brian Haas and Matt Chamberlain’s minimalist duo album Frames, seems to spring less from a womb than an existential void, charting an impressionistic course through an imagined life that ends in “From Nothing, Infinite.” It’s all very Zen, and much of the album takes the conceit of sonic koans repeated and refracted through keyboard, drums and synth. Titles could easily be culled from haiku—“Of Many, One,” “An Empty House” and “Death: An Introduction.”

On his debut collaboration with the prolific, Grammy-winning session drummer, Haas pares down the instrumentation he has employed on the 21 albums with Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and tempers the pop influence, emerging with a more meditative sensibility that relies largely on elliptical, diatonic motifs. Haas began writing Frames after moving to Santa Fe from Tulsa, the birthplace of JFJO. Exhausted from years of extensive touring, he channeled the comparative solitude of his new home in the desert mountains into a series of interconnected fugal exercises, which became the basis for the album. He distills the minimalist works of Steve Reich, the stride piano of James P. Johnson and the hypnotic trance of Flying Lotus into a cohesive whole; the iceberg principle is in full effect, with a less-is-more approach fleshed out by Chamberlain’s deft touch. The versatile drummer proves his mettle, displaying consummate restraint and forging a near-psychic connection with Haas that belies the fact that they haven’t done this before.

Originally published in May 2014
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