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Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy Ghost: Rob Mazurek and Black Cube SP

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Cornetist Rob Mazurek and his Black Cube SP recorded this disc in May 2013, two weeks after the death of Mazurek’s mother. The suite was conceived in her memory; the titles of the selections are taken from a poem Mazurek wrote for her shortly after her passing. But don’t expect sentiment, nostalgia or spiritual bromides: Mazurek and his cohorts, blending organic instruments and electronica into a maelstrom simultaneously claustrophobic, terrifying and uplifting, have crafted nothing less than an aural spirit quest-or, as he has described it, “a shamanistic journey where we sonically clear a path for my mother into the unknown.”

As is often the case with Mazurek, it’s difficult to distinguish the acoustic instruments from the electronic ones. But his cornet, along with Thomas Rohrer’s soprano sax and rabeca (a Brazilian fiddle), as well as traps and cymbals from Mauricio Takara and Rogerio Martins and a ukulele-like cavaquinhoi> plucked by Takara, are sporadically evident throughout. “Let the Rain Fall Upwards” is a dense collection of reversed tones that ramp up to dervish-dance intensity; “Oh Mother (Angels’ Wings)” likewise concludes with an electro-shock onslaught, as a pipe-organ-like keyboard groans and heaves beneath a cacophony of electronic squawks, squirks, blats and corrugated-metal shrieks. The final piece, “Reverse the Lightning,” ends in serenity with a monk-like wordless vocal chant.

Newcomers might be nonplussed by the harshness of a lot of what’s here. But earlier meldings of free improvisation and spiritual seeking, from Coltrane and beyond, have similarly embraced the paradox of seeking redemptive uplift through sonic imagery that seems to roil with angst and terror.

Originally Published