Naxos of America
An appropriately haunted atmosphere permeates Opaque (Naxos 86068-2; 54:55), the elegantly crafted release from Pekka Pylkkanen's Tube Factory, which calls for repeat listenings to unwrap its many layers. The Finnish wind specialist Pylkkanen leads a tight sextet through moody, atmospheric pieces that explore with a purpose. "Donnerwetter," which translates to "thunder," for example, begins in darkness with cold piano falls before warming to a pattering interplay between acoustic bass and piano. "Wallaby's Dance" takes playful joy in its lively time switches and tick-tock percussion, while winding, diving sax and bass parallels lend an exotic flavor and hint of mystery, as well as organic warmth. As accomplished a group of musicians as these are, the human element is always present-a touchstone on the mournful but beautiful "Lumi" and a vivid theme in the intertwined layers of "The Picture of Dorian Gray," an evocative take on the beauty and sadness of twisted desire. Lighter-toned tunes, like the ringing bells and ethereal, distant melody of "Balinese Wedding Song," are equally haunting. Throughout, the Tube Factory twists influences into original inspiration, from the dark jazz of "TomCat," to the wandering sweetness in the light, Brazilian-gaited flute melody of "Hilipata."