Frantz Loriot Systematic Distortion Orchestra — The Assembly (OutNow, 2016)
These are big-concept pieces executed by an 11-piece band including some stars of the Brooklyn out-jazz scene. They go through long stretches of improvising, and as you’d expect, they can produce quite a bit of sound.
But there’s organization: Each of the four mid-length tracks seems to focus on executing a central idea, a particular mood. Violist Frantz Loriot sends his group on an improvisatory mission every time, with volume and cluttery chaos applied to a purpose.
For example, I think of “Echo” as the “blare” piece. Starting from the rudiments of silence, it builds in the form of unison horn notes, serious and slow, backed by clattering percussion (produced by three drummers) and an ominous bass drone. It all builds to a violent climax, but for me, there’s a sense of stillness that pervades the piece.
“The Assembly,” on the other hand, is built to produce a dense rustle. Again starting from practically nothing, it builds up into a jumble of scraped and plucked strings, eventually adding up to an abrasive buzz almost like a noise piece, even though the Systematic Distortion Orchestra is an all-acoustic group.
“… Maybe … Still …” is an exercise in quietude, a poem spoken in dramatic tones by bassist Sean Ali against a backdrop of small, sound-based improvisation — a minimalist industrial vibe that continues in lower-case fashion after Ali has had his say.
And then there’s “Le Relais,” a percussive forest that gives way to the full orchestra, with plenty of emphasis on strings. An octave chord on Loriot’s viola signals the change to the new landscape of quiet rustles and night sounds.
The Assembly nicely pairs planned structure and the glorious chaotic blur of large-group improvising. Thanks to saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer and his OutNow label for giving it an outlet.