Are we to believe that Monet’s series of Haystacks paintings inspired guitarist Scott DuBois’ new album? The titles of four of the eight songs on it—“Spring Haystacks,” “Summer Haystacks,” “Autumn Haystacks” and “Winter Haystacks”—reference those Impressionist paintings, but there is a disconnect between them and this music. The paintings are serene; the songs are not.
Landscape Scripture is the third album by DuBois’ excellent quartet with reedman Gebhard Ullmann, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Kresten Osgood, a group that has grown more assertive with each effort. Songs ebb and flow, dreamlike. Those that appear to have the least structure are the most electrifying.
“Spring Haystacks” starts slowly and softly with a droning bass that gradually becomes a pulse. DuBois places notes far apart, then phrases. Osgood strikes drums and cymbals cautiously. Ullmann, on bass clarinet, blurts notes and crafts spiraling passages. Somehow, evading notice, the song achieves a certain harshness that ratchets up and approaches Bitches Brew territory. “Autumn Haystacks” possesses an ominous, march-like rhythm and mysterious theme that darts here and there. On the other hand, “Spring Haystacks” boasts a folk-ish melody, and “Winter Haystacks” is meditative, almost peaceful when compared with the rest of the album.
A roiling rhythm and a rumbling bass begin “Prairie Suite”; Ullmann makes a few proclamations on his tenor sax, before DuBois steps into the fray with clean lines played fast. As the song builds to a boisterous, atonal climax, Ullmann and DuBois play the same note over and over, like two dogs howling. “Lake Shore Suite,” the album’s 13-minute focal point, is played arhythmically, though a rhythm is implied. Here, DuBois and Ullmann play freely until the end nears, and then we are treated to a crunching, pounding finale. It’s nothing like Claude Monet. Yet like Monet’s paintings, Landscape Scripture is a brilliant work of art that touches the soul.