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Trevor Dunn’s Trio-Convulsant avec Folie à Quatre: Séances (Pyroclastic)

Review of the first album in 18 years by the bassist's trio with guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Ches Smith

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Cover of Trevor Dunn's Trio-Convulsant album Séances
Cover of Trevor Dunn’s Trio-Convulsant album Séances

Trevor Dunn is the consummate model of jazz-metal mashups. The prolific bassist and composer has meted out the heaviest of bottom-end riffage as a member of the Melvins and Mr. Bungle and currently logs time in Titan to Tachyons and Dan Weiss Starebaby, among tons of other projects. After nearly two decades, Dunn has revived his own metal-centric powerhouse, Trio-Convulsant. 2004 saw its last full-length, Sister Phantom Owl Fish, an odd-time- and power-chord-laden gut punch with guitarist Mary Halvorson spraying a fusillade of bone-crushing licks as drummer Ches Smith painted a dizzily complex core.

Eighteen long years later, Dunn, Halvorson, and Smith’s sharp-edged cohesiveness remains full-throttle on Séances but with a decidedly chamber-like bent. That’s due to this expanded iteration of Dunn’s Trio-Convulsant, supplemented by Folie à Quatre, comprising Anna Webber (flute), Carla Kihlstedt (viola, violin), Mariel Roberts (cello), and Oscar Noriega (clarinet, bass clarinet).

Swapping out Sister Phantom Owl Fish’s minimalist metallic guitar crunch for a more strings-and-winds-based swirl, Dunn and his nimble band weave a knotty note-packed web in which the myriad pieces improbably fit. “Secours Meurtriers,” the sprawling opener, cements the set’s zigzagging and rapid-fire momentum in a relentless, resounding fashion. While these pieces have hectic, proggy underpinnings, Dunn’s bandleader skillset keeps the chaos under control. Deep cuts like “Saint-Médard” and “1733” sound like a mathy Melvins backed by a string section.

Partly inspired by the Convulsionnaires of Saint-Médard, an 18th-century French Christian sect who engaged in debaucherous worship, Dunn’s Séances has ostensibly provided their soundtrack with this eccentric and thrilling effort.

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Learn more about Séances on Amazon

Trevor Dunn: Before & After