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Conceived on Paris’s cosmopolitan jazz scene, forged on the road in America, and informed by international currents in electronic music, The Kandinsky Effect is a jazz power trio for the 21st century. The trans-Atlantic band, based in New York City and Paris, makes its Cuneiform debut with 'Synesthesia', a roller-coaster ride of an album marked by fierce grooves, subtle electronic textures, intricate metrical shifts, and a commitment to empathic group interplay.
Featuring Warren Walker on saxophone and electronics, bassist Gaël Petrina, and drummer Caleb Dolister, The Kandinsky Effect explores a distinctive swath of sonic territory, inspired by similarly electronica-laced ensembles like Kneebody and Jaga Jazzist. With a long history as a cutting edge format, the saxophone, bass and drums trio is usually employed by horn players looking to explore harmonically unfettered improvisation. The Kandinsky Effect finds a different kind of freedom in the lack of a chordal instrument.
The album opens with the rough and tumble “Johnny Utah,” which has little to do with Keanu Reeves’ surfer/FBI agent in the beloved 1991 film “Point Break,” except maybe a brooding sense of momentum, a relentless drive enhanced by clattering percussion breaks. Like several of Walker’s tunes “M.C.” moves sleekly through a series of sections, each built upon a different rhythmic theme or motif. In the same way, “Walking…” sounds more like a series of helter-skelter sprints over broken ground than a leisurely stroll.
While the band excels at acceleration, The Kandinsky Effect also knows how to slow down, playing melodies that ooze and saunter. On Walker’s “Cusba,” the band displays a knack for mysterious balladry, with a coolly disquieting theme. The atmosphere gets thicker on “WK51” with the clattering march-time snare chatter building cinematic tension, the coiled calm before a deadly confrontation. The album closes with “If Only,” another ominously serpentine line with subtle layered effects that make it clear the trio has absorbed lessons from Bjork, Squarepusher, and Aphex Twin in developing a lapidary but spacious sound.
Over dozens of shows performed in North America and Europe, the well-travelled trio of Walker, Petrina and Dolister had honed their collective sound to a fine polish. The transatlantic met in a studio mid-way between New York and Paris – in Rejkavik, Iceland! – to record their new album. The result was 'Synesthesia', The Kandinsky Effect’s second release, and the group’s first recordings on American-based, internationally-distributed Cuneiform Records. Featuring 11 captivating tracks that are simultaneously rhythmically gorgeous, groove-laden, compositionally interesting and immediately accessible, 'Synesthesia' promises to spread the sensory magic of The Kandinsky Effect’s transatlantic jazz worldwide.