4 out of 5
Produced by: The Denison/Kimball Trio
It’s interesting that Denison/Kimball Trio’s – rebranded DK3 for this release – move to Quarterstick from the no-wave Skin Graft label would produce a more angular album, but the low-end heavy thump of Neutrons is rather fitting for the angular, post-rock favored by the other imprint; indeed, after getting used to the more immediate heft of the recording, DK3’s last album (through 2021, anyway) is actually a bit more linear, more structured and less dream-like than what came before.
Opener Downriver is a definer: start and stop bass and drums; clipped guitar and horns from Ken Vandermark. You will immediately be set with the groove of this track, but what becomes more rewarding as you revisit it is the juxtaposed restraint – the track hits hard, and the trio evolves on its hook, but the way it breaks out as it goes along is ultimately very controlled, and regulated. This makes the free jazz experience on the followups more impactful; these are loosier-goosey takes on the slink from their former albums, pushed out of a comfort zone by Vandermark’s contributions. Heavy Water is a fascinating bridge to cross, mid-album: the longest track at 6+ minutes, it strips away all of the bombast and goes headfirst into ambience. The discrepancy can make one a little restless, but there’s an undercurrent of jitter – little hinks of percussion and noise – and this builds with the same kind of control as that opener, doing a relative quiet-to-loud advance that’s very effectively unnerving. We’re then all set for two more out-and-out rockers, with The Traveling Salesman and Neutrons, the latter fulling taking off Vandermark’s reins.
The last two tracks are the only puzzle, feeling somewhat like loose ends the group didn’t quite know how to fit. Closer lullaby is named appropriately, and is quite nice, but it’s banjo-y sound is unique to the point of feeling out of place – some kind of lead-in was needed for this, and the completely ambient Issa doesn’t quite do the trick.
Being only about a half-hour, these final two tracks are both a notable amount of the runtime (7 minutes together), but also a drop in the bucket compared to the fantastic work in the preceding 6 songs, which are all standouts.