Good Things Come in Twos on Ingrid Laubrock’s Haunting, Massive New Double Album
Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock’s epic new double album Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt – streaming at Bandcamp – has a novel concept: a single set of compositions performed by a jazz quartet plus chamber orchestra, then a completely different jazz quintet. The difference between the large and small-ensemble versions is stunning, to the point where one version is unrecognizable compared to the other.
Laubrock has worked with large improvising ensembles before, but this is her most ambitious and darkest project to date. There’s more going on here than anyone could possibly capsulize in a digestible album review: dive in for yourself and experience this strange and wonderful creation. Although it was recorded before the lockdown, the occasional shriek through the mist foreshadows the horror that would be the year 2020.
The first disc features the bandleader on tenor and soprano sax, joined by Cory Smythe on piano and quartertone electric piano, Robert Landfermann on bass and Tom Rainey on drums, along with the EOS Chamber Orchestra conducted by Susanne Blumenthal. They open with the title track, Laubrock’s upbeat, energetic solo seemingly wrenching the group along with her. Smythe quickly switches to eerie microtonal accents as Laubrock grows more casual, the strings looming back in with a similarly magical microtonality. Slides, dopplers and various echo effects, growly processed bass over shimmery ambience, and a plaintive bit of a viola theme all factor into the album’s first ten minutes. That sets the stage for the rest of the record.
Snorkel Cows has a bubbling, circling drive, rippling microtonal piano, strings like an agitated flock of birds, massed glissandos, echoey ambience and striking, resonant high/low contrasts plus a long, pensive interlude from Laubrock over disquieting, pulsing atmospherics. As strange as the tonalities are, the music isn’t far from what you might hear from an ambitiously tuneful current-day big band like Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge.
The album’s most symphonic number is Drilling, the first version clocking in at almost nineteen minutes of troubled haze punctuated by belltones, foghorns over a sad harbor, Hitchcockian moment of panic, trolls under a bridge and a triumphantly weird crescendo.
Never Liked That Guy has a playful light/dark dichotomy early on over shivery massed orchestration, rivulets of microtonal piano desencending and a relentlessly ominous backdrop for a surprisingly animated Laubrock soprano sax solo. The final cut, Down the Mountain, Down the Mountain is a Dvorkian orchestral cautionary tale with looming low brass and keening strings taking the place of the indians out on the prairie, disintegrating to what seems to be an inevitable battle .
The quintet versions of the material are more pensive, as can be expected. Laubrock’s energy in the quintet version of Snorkel Cows commands centerstage, whether blippy or calm over the ensemble of Smythe, electric harpist Zeena Parkins, accordionist Adam Matlock and Momenta Quartet violinist Josh Modney. This time the drilling in the wall keeps up, but nobody seems to be paying any mind.
Speaking of Drilling, the quintet version is a thicket of stabbing burnt-plastic electronic interruptions finally redeemed by Matlock’s pulsing chords and a plaintive Laubrock solo over raindrop-and-mist sonics. Smythe’s jackhammering attack and Laubrock’s breathlessly jumping soprano sax substitutes for the orchestra in the take of I Never Liked That Guy
Modney’s severe, slashing microtonal riffs are matched by Laubrock’s masterful in-between harmonies and Matlock’s resolute resonance in Down the Mountain, Down the Mountain.
There’s also an electronic component throughout the album, typically in the background and mostly confined to tweaking textures, adding echoes and loops.