Sensaround – Heart/Noise (HellosQuare)

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Australian / Scottish electro-acoustic improvisational trio Alister Spence (Rhodes and effects), Raymond MacDonald (alto and soprano saxophone) and Shoeb Ahmad (samplers and effects) first introduced their Sensaround collaboration with 2014’s ‘Isotropes’ album, and five years on, ‘Heart/Noise’ delivers its long awaited follow-up.

Recorded at the trio’s Brick Lane studio during their most recent 2016 tour, the seven tracks collected here offer up a listening experience that’s arguably much more expansive, yet also curiously more claustrophobic than its predecessor, with the level of textural detail and depth making an immediate impression. Also particularly impressive is the degree to which the trio’s respective individual contributions mesh together here, something no doubt honed further during their recent tour.

‘Varispeed’ opens proceedings with a spectral wash of treated Rhodes keys that almost sounds like tumbling fragments of ice before phased glitchy electronics begin to infiltrate the edges of the mix and MacDonald’s free-jazz saxophone calls fade into the foreground, their unpredictable atonal shifts seemingly smoothed out by humming electronic drones and crackling digital detritus.

Title track ‘Heart/Noise’ spends its eleven minutes building up epic levels of tension as MacDonald’s mournful saxophones howl and squeal against an oppressive backdrop of relentlessly rattling percussion and jittery delayed out echoes, the free-jazz elements reaching full flow before the entire track fades out into a massive of reverbed effects and what almost sounds like a whirring cinematic reel.

‘Winter Sleepers’ meanwhile offers a comparatively subdued and contemplative interlude as glitchy sonic artefacts crackle and murmur against richly melodic saxophone phrases, Spence’s digitally processed piano keys poking out through the elements like sudden glimpses of contorted wire, before everything bleeds out into a gradually ebbing fade. More than anything ‘Heart/Noise’ provides the most vivid recorded snapshot yet of Sensaround in full flow.

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