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Dylan Ryan/Sand: Circa

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Dylan Ryan’s drums and songwriting might lead Sand, but guitarist Timothy Young is the guy doing the heavy lifting. And “heavy” can be easily affixed to his fretwork. The low, drop-tuned riff in “Possession” evokes Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi on a more progressive day. “Visionary Fantasy” opens with a slab of power chords. The wah-wah skronk of “Mortgage on My Soul” begins like a distant cousin of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” before going off to evoke James Blood Ulmer’s yowls.

For nearly every slash-and-burn moment, though, Young can finesse an equally refined, pensive sound. “Visionary Fantasy,” in fact, depends more on highly melodic figures farther up the fretboard, which blend with the dynamic shifts and effects-pedal climaxes. In “Slow Sculpture” the trio creates cinematic desert music, which continues in the high lonesome twang of “Pink Noir.” Devin Hoff’s upright bass brings a smooth, soothing timbre to the set that asserts itself at opportune moments, as if to prove the music won’t digress into excessive sludge; at the same time, Ryan frequently composes in uneven time signatures.

Sand might sound more like a progressive-rock trio at first blush, but as they play, it’s clear they avoid any of the excesses or pretension that usually come with that style. Circa features a jazz-like sense of economy, not to mention a sense of swing in the leader’s drumming, even in the more thunderous moments.

Originally Published