Have you ever listened to a section of a song, performance, or recording and thought, “I wish that went on forever (or longer at least)?” That is the dynamic at play in More Energy Fields, Current, the new album by percussionist, producer, and DJ Carlos Niño and the ninth with his “& Friends” rotating collective.
The nature of this rotation means each record can vary wildly based on the collaborators and Niño’s vision as producer; he functions almost as a curator of sounds, moods and, yes, energies. Take the 2019 release Bliss on Dear Oneness: Industrial electronic licks meld with untethered free-jazz ideas to make something of a love child between Sun Ra and The Matrix. More Energy Fields, Current channels the enveloping ambience of Niño’s apparent mentor Iasos, one of the founders of New Age, but heightened by the melodic design and harmonic richness of modern jazz. Those chops shine clear on pieces such as “Salon Winds,” setting a Yusef Lateef-like flute attack (courtesy of Aaron Shaw) to the ambient bedrock of Laraaji.
The opening and closing tracks—“Pleasewakeupalittlefaster, please…” and “Please, wake up”—feature saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings whispering a gentle tenor melody over breezy synthesizers, quite the departure from his inferno delivery with Sons of Kemet or the Ancestors (which is likely part of the intent). Pianist Jamael Dean lays down chords like a four-poster featherbed, sturdy yet luxurious. The music doesn’t start so much as blossom and doesn’t end so much as transform. Dean and Hutchings, like many musicians on the record, play as though they’re mulling over their ideas in real time, constantly reiterating as they constantly re-examine what they say. It’s a sort of looping effect that’s also heard on pieces like “Nightswimming,” “Thanking the Earth,” and “Togetherness”: Each loop passes the ears and invites you further in, until you want to be totally immersed in the music.