On “II,” Berthling swaps his acoustic bass for an electric, on which he plays a single repeated riff for all nine and a half minutes of the song’s running time, tapping out the sort of harmonics that were Jaco Pastorius’ signature. But where Pastorius, on songs like “Portrait of Tracy,” used the effect to hint at the ineffable, as though grasping at moods his instrument wasn’t otherwise meant to capture, Berthling keeps his head down and his control all but mechanical. His playing is so steady, it’s easy to wonder if he used a looping pedal—but everything on the record was played in real time, Ambarchi says. Berthling has overdubbed a low-end bassline to add some dubby punch; Ambarchi’s processed guitar sounds almost like a bowed violin. The whole thing moves so naturally, it might take you multiple listens to realize that it’s in 7/8 time; credit Werliin’s locked-in yet fluid drumming, which draws from the same deep well as Can’s “Future Days.”
On “III,” the players tackle an even trickier time signature, but once again, they make it feel as intuitive as breathing. Where the preceding songs are sprightly and vivid, the nearly 16-minute “III” goes long on atmosphere. Berthling again lays down the unchanging groove, his instrument’s tone as smooth as driftwood, while Werliin’s deep, booming toms offer the faintest suggestion of a melodic counterpoint. Propelled by the Leslie cabinet’s quickening-and-slowing rotations, Ambarchi’s guitar is all shimmer, dancing like the Northern lights above the craggy shapes sketched out by his bandmates.
It’s an example of jam-based minimalism at its most transcendent: endlessly repetitive, yet born anew with every bar. The band probably could have drawn this meditative, trance-like track out to an entire album’s length. Instead, they let us down gently with “IV,” a dirge-like song in the same key that spreads out like an oil stain. It makes for a satisfying finish: After the clockwork mechanics of the first three tracks, “IV” feels like they’re letting go again, giving into entropy as the coiled grooves relax into ambient ooze.
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