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Blast — Vortographs
(ReR Megacorp ReRblast03, 2021, CD / DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2022-02-17

Vortographs Cover art

Vortograph: the first completely abstract kind of photograph, composed of kaleidoscopic repetitions of forms achieved by photographing objects through a triangular arrangement of three mirrors. And so it is, musically speaking, with this latest offering from Blast. Throughout the band’s thirty-plus year history, the group’s makeup has assumed a number of different formations — nominally four members, but at times as many as six or eight members, all the way down to two, as it is here on Vortographs and as it was in the very beginning; only its two founding members, Dirk Bruinsma (alto and soprano saxes, vibraphone, MIDI and percussion programming) and Frank Crijns (electric guitar and MIDI programming) are involved. It’s been a full twelve years since Sift; Vortographs was finished and mixed in 2020, released in 2021, and here it is 2022 and I’m going to try and tell you what it sounds like. As with so many Blast albums before this one, it’s a wild ride of irregular rhythms, unusual melodies, jagged and edgy sounds, and chaotic elements that will surprise and baffle the listener at every turn — in other words, it’s one wild ride. One's first instinct would be to think this was all or part improvisation, but when you consider that there are only two band members, and much of what’s here involves programming, one comes to the realization that each of the four pieces are fully composed, and in fact the opening cut “Soak” and third cut “Rope” were composed by Bruinsma, leaving the second, “Skrew,” and the sprawling near fifteen-minute closer, “Tactile Grid,” by Crijns. Even after at least a dozen plays all the way through, you could drop the needle on any track and I couldn’t readily identify which one it was — that’s how complex and crazy each of these pieces is, always in an endless state of change with litlle or no repetition. I am sometimes reminded, especially on the closer, of some of Frank Zappa’s works for synclavier, like Jazz from Hell, with additional vibraphone, sax, and programmed percussion to flesh out the ideas. There’s a lot here for a listener to absorb, and even if one listened to this a hundred times there will still probably be new discoveries with each spin.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): Blast / Blast4tet, Frank Crijns

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