Horse Lords saxophonist Andrew Bernstein delivers a different strain of intensity on his visceral new solo album | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Horse Lords saxophonist Andrew Bernstein delivers a different strain of intensity on his visceral new solo album 

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click to enlarge Andrew Bernstein

Andrew Bernstein

Justin Tsucalas

Saxophonist Andrew Bernstein is a major contributor to the churning intensity of noisy Baltimore art-rock band Horse Lords, and while the music on his forthcoming second solo album, An Exploded View of Time (Hausu Mountain), isn’t nearly as loud or propulsive, its concentrated sound and cycling patterns are hardly chill. With the exception of the piece “Deux Ex Machina”—which deploys custom resonance software that seems to elongate and smooth his slaloming, vibrato-heavy phrases while adding a ghostly sonic backdrop—everything is played live, without effects. Bernstein’s major weapon is circular breathing, an extended technique often used in free improvisation where a horn player takes in air through the nose and breathes out through his or her instrument to produce an uninterrupted stream of sound. The mechanics of the technique produce mesmerizing rhythm patterns, and when harmonic tricks are deployed, it often seems as though more than one musician is playing. Bernstein is less interested in the sort of sonic constellations spontaneously formed by circular-breathing master Evan Parker than he is in using the technique to form modular structures that he manipulates at will. He deploys his grainy saxophone tone in thrilling ways, such as on the mind-warping “Boogie Woogie Phase,” where a steady phantom note keeps time and a cascading line—intermittently marbled by a sudden upper-register interjection—has the effect of pulling the listener into a lulling void by sheer force of movement. There are numerous pieces on the album where Bernstein’s unrelenting focus has that hypnotic effect—each time I’ve played it, there’s been some point where I’ve felt like I’ve been put in a trance.   v


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