Battle Trance | Constellation | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Battle Trance

Sarah H. Paulson

Battle Trance 

When: Thu., Oct. 13, 8:30 p.m. 2016
Price: $10
In noise-jazz outfit Little Women, tenor saxophonist Travis Laplante was all about assault, but as leader of tenor-saxophone quartet Battle Trance, he seems more concerned with surrender. (Drummer and critic Hank Shteamer made this point beautifully last month on his blog Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches.) The long, shape-shifting pieces on the group’s second album, this summer’s Blade of Love (New Amsterdam/NNA Tapes)—according to Laplante, the produce of more than two years of writing and rehearsing—require your brain to relinquish its customary ways of paying attention to music. They never return to a part in verse-chorus style, instead progressing organically and inexorably, like a weather system or a geological process. Changes from section to section tend to happen gradually, and a foreground melody emerges only occasionally. This absence of familiar structures and vocabulary forbids you from using mental shorthand to process this music—with its intricate textures and priestly patience, it invites you instead to awaken to full presence. Laplante and bandmates Jeremy Viner, Patrick Breiner, and Matthew Nelson play with tension as though their instrumental voices were a bundle of cords, tightening and loosening as they’re twisted from both ends. They move from ragged drones to busy, pristine minimalist cycling, and from chrome-scouring unison barrages to choruses of long, sighing whistles; they sometimes sing wordlessly through their horns, working the keys to modulate the timbre of their eerie, pseudo-­liturgical vocalizations. They can be quiveringly raw, mosque-mosaic meticulous, heartbreakingly soulful, serenely meditative, or frothily ecstatic, but not even the music’s most frenzied violence communicates aggression. Laplante offers qigong training through a practice called Sword Hands, and his music is about the rigorous and painful process of healing. Battle Trance have been playing Blade of Love in full on this tour.
— Philip Montoro



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