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MultiTraction Orchestra — Reactor One
(Bandcamp no#, 2023, DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-04-07

Reactor One Cover art

Alex Roth is an American composer, guitarist, and producer who grew up in London and is now based in Kraków. When covid forced the cancellation and postponement of his planned projects, he conceived of MultiTraction Orchestra as a way to maintain activity and connections with musicians he knew around the world. The initial result was “Emerge Entangled,” a piece he assembled using contributions from 27 different players, each of whom improvised and submitted their own part, which he then assembled into a single piece that is remarkably coherent. For the fluctuating ensemble’s full-length debut, Roth employed the same method: he recorded simple multitrack guitar pieces and shared them with his collaborators with the instructions to improvise their own additional parts to complement the guitar. As the contributions rolled in, Roth mixed them together into six tracks which sound like they could easily have been created by musicians playing together with loosely notated scores. The personnel list is far less extensive than on the original track, comprising only six musicians in addition to Roth himself. The featured player is trumpeter Arve Henriksen (Supersilent), whose wistful and plaintive tones set the mood for much of what happens (though of course the others wouldn’t have been aware of his parts while they recorded their own — it is this kind of synchronistic magic that makes the project so successful). Drummer Jon Scott (GoGo Penguin) is the only contributor who returns from the single for Reactor One; the other musicians are bassist Ruth Goller (Melt Yourself Down, Let Spin, etc.), woodwind player James Allsopp, harpist Rhodri Davies, cellist Kate Ellis, and Henriksen on trumpet and piccolo trumpet. The album starts with a dreamy soundscape over which Henriksen’s trumpet floats, harmonized with effects and sounding almost like a cluster of flutes. Ellis’s cello adds a pattern that repeats irregularly and functions almost like a tambura in Indian music. “Part II” sets up a rhythmic part around which synths and bass provide backing for multiple tenor sax parts. The other tracks offer up more variety, from shimmering harp to free-form flurries of notes and sounds. Reactor One is both engaging and sonically adventurous, and reveals more fascinating details on each listen.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Arve Henriksen, Alex Roth / MultiTraction Orchestra

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