Very obviously a saxophonist, Ben Vince readies a new record on the wonderful Where To Now? label. Uh. Hell yeah? Assimilation he treads further afield than the usual minimalist focus, collaborating with a bunch of artists who love him to give his sax wild different hues and contexts. Playing solo is one thing; playing with Micachu, Rupert Clervaux and Valentina Magaletti is another. Vince is making a name for himself and he already has a pretty good one and it's Ben.
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Forgive me for acting like a sentimental parent sending off his graduated child, but is Ben Vince all grown up now? I thought he’d peaked with the gorgeously looped sax fantasies of ‘Monuments’, a record of free-flowing woodwind exercises released for Blank Editions last year. Now, with help from a handful of electronic dons who join him like a jazz quintet for the Extremely Online generation, he offers an even grander achievement, finding brilliance in the sharp, shattered shards of ‘Assimilation’.
It sounds nothing like ‘Monuments’, all things considered. This is an ecstatic record of wayward free jazz, at first blush reminding me of the sparsely textured, slowly solidifying structures offered on old BYD Actuel releases; free reign bands like the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and the contemporary influence Anthony Braxton, come to mind on “Alive & Ready”, where Vince’s ambitious overtone screeches are met with squeaking vocal accusations from Merlin Nova -- whose improvised pantomime here rivals Keiji Haino for intensity.
Looking down the list, Vince’s collaborations look as bewildering as they do exciting, suggesting entirely new musical ideas. What they are, in reality, is sublime, offering artists keen to create space for one another, the experimental equivalent of two people politely letting the other get on the bus first. With Micachu, Vince creates a gorgeous, see-sawing landscape, his sax making conversational howls that come out like whale song; Levi’s voice swirls amidst the looping drones, the whole song pirouetting together in one, fluid motion.
Vince’s collaboration with left-of-reality techno hero Rupert Clervaux is something else: the saxophonist finds an intense, newly propulsive energy to play with underneath these rattling drums, his circular-breathing staying the course only to erupt from it. Listening to a track like this between the unabashed free playing odes that are “Alive & Ready” and the meandering ten minute cruise to hell “Tower of Cells” is proof of Vince’s boundless aspirations -- his greatest strength is never quite finding his place between jazz and strange new musical architecture.
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- Assimilation by Ben Vince
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