Vega trails –Tremors in the static
(Gondwana Records – GONDCD049. Album Review by Graham Spry)
The unscheduled COVID-induced break from his normally busy schedule has given the bassist and songwriter Milo Fitzpatrick, former member of the Portico Quartet, the opportunity to spend time reassessing his musical orientations. The music he chose to listen to and which inspired his latest project, Vega trails – the Swedish fiddle and Indian classical music, for example – generally emphasize space and scarcity. He was also inspired by Jan Johansson’s timeless album Jazz på Svenska—a bass and piano duo performing Swedish folk tunes—and Charlie Haden’s classic duet albums, in particular Proximity. Fitzpatrick’s careful listening led him to compose and record Tremors in the statica duet album with smart jordanthe saxophonist of Mammal Hands.
Fitzpatrick and Smart complement each other naturally. Over the past decade, Portico Quartet and Mammal Hands have played music inspired by contemporary electronic music, but whose strong melodic hooks often invoke folk melodies. The opening track (and perhaps the strongest) of the album, love your grace, features Fitzpatrick in a double bass solo with understated piano and occasional pulsating electronics in the background. Smart plays a leading role in Train to Kyoto which may be the track that swings the most like Mammal Hands, although generally the music on the album is more subdued and thoughtful, like on slow spiral and Closerwhere Smart’s soprano sax swirls above and around Fitzpatrick’s melodic bass lines.
Smart doesn’t just play the saxophone. He plays the bass clarinet on the charming reflection Changing thoughts and the raga influenced red moonrise. On the latter song, Smart also plays the ney, a Middle Eastern flute most often associated with Egyptian music, which features prominently on the entirely improvised track. New Planet. True to its title, the penultimate title, epic dreampresents a wide range of instruments played and layered by the two musicians.
The title of the album, Tremors in the staticand the name of the duo, Vega trailsare inspired by the science fiction novel Contact by space scientist Carl Sagan, from which a hit film of the same name was based. The novel recounts the discovery of the first evidence of extraterrestrial life by intercepting radio signals emanating from the Vega star system. The title track is the most overtly ambient on the album in which the subtle use of electronic instruments, loops and samples play an important role with Fitzpatrick’s arco and Smart’s restrained tenor sax. It’s a slow, mysterious song that evokes an enigmatic sense of deep space that could easily be used in a future remake of the film.
Apart from Fitzpatrick and Smart, the only other contributor is producer and sound engineer, Brett Cox, who added electronics and samples to a few tracks and may well be responsible for the beautiful open and clear sound of the set’s recording at St Thomas’ Church in Stamford Hill. This is a very good album recommended not only for fans of label mates Gondwana, Portico Quartet and Mammal Hands, but for those who appreciate the soulful yet restrained sound of an acoustic horn and bass duo.
LINK: Tremors in the static on Bandcamp