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Brian Ales: November

While some musicians can call themselves composers or arrangers, others-like Peter Gabriel, Laurie Anderson or the imposing duo of Matt Balitsaris and Jeff Berman-are more like inventors, pulling traditional and modern sounds, textures and elements together in unexpected, yet revealing ways. Brian Ales dives into this category with November (Intuition INT 3209-2; 52:34), offering a bustling, busy weave of percussive and harmonic layers highlighting his guitars and a bracing three-horn chorale. Remarkable textures are achieved with this configuration-where “International Arrivals” blends ambient, post-modern percussion and tribal threads with heady staccato horns and sinewy, Middle Eastern guitar riffs, “When It Would Fall Velvet Rain” sounds like its title-plush, dreamy and mysterious-with a chugging beat and warm tides of brass. While these aren’t your ordinary verse-chorus-verse format cuts, each piece builds on a theme, and brings its point of view into sharp focus. The strange dance “Suits by the Pool” is a prime example, flashing attitude with clipped reggae and offbeat fusion rhythms, pitted against a highly stylized mute horn melody. Images also come to mind on “Shutter Speed,” with its vibrant guitar jangle and revolving horns suggesting fast motion captured. Though at first listen, Ales’ work may appear out-of-the-mainstream, adventurous listeners will be rewarded with an absorbing, intelligent experience.

Originally Published