Ali McGhee is a journalist, creative writer, and academic. Her work has appeared in The Edgar Allan Poe Review, Romantic Circles, Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary...
On Friday, September 9th, tenor saxophone quartet Battle Trance will play a show at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. The show, presented by Free Range Asheville, is also a benefit for the BMCM+AC, and will be held at their brand new space at 69 Broadway St, across the street and down from their previous location. The show is another in a steadily lengthening list of top-notch events Free Range Asheville is bringing to our community. The admission price is on a sliding scale, with all proceeds going to the Museum. Things get started at 8 pm.
Battle Trance's music is electric, hypnotic, and, at its core, deeply spiritual. Their newest album, Blade of Love, like their previous release, 2014's Palace of Wind, is a single piece separated into three sections that are numbered I, II, and III. With a total running time of 40 minutes, this gorgeous album soars to arcing heights and travels down into deep, resonant, oceanic soundscapes. Sections of some pieces sound reverential and ethereal, tapping into traditions of devotional music. Other moments are guttural and strangely animal. Some sections are undefinable, existing at a threshold where harmonies come together in organic synchronicity and then fall apart just as quickly. The album also features the performers' breath as an instrument. Deep sighs, inhalations and exhalations, whistles and airy flutters become just as vital as the saxophones, adding a strange and expressive element. The record is haunting, unique, and unforgettable.
Battle Trance is founder Travis Laplante, Patrick Breiner, Matt Nelson, and Jeremy Viner. And yes, all four members play the same instrument--the tenor saxophone. But trust me, this is saxophone like you've never heard before. Laplante was struck with the urge to reach out to the artists suddenly--in fact, he woke up one morning with the clear insight that he needed to play with these three other people (despite the fact that he was not familiar with their music). This inspired inception called together a group that has evolved into one of the most innovative I've heard.
Blade of Love was gestated over two years of intense training, composition, and rehearsal that founder Laplante calls "the most torturous and demanding compositional experience of [his] life." It was recorded "in a wooden room with soaring ceilings in the Vermont forest" (which sounds, dear readers, a bit like a church). In this space of sanctuary, the album, which at its heart is profoundly engaged with matters of the spirit, was brought into the world. The ensemble will be performing the piece at Friday's event.
I spoke with Laplante about his own evolution as a musician, the album, and music as a spiritual practice.
&amp;amp;lt;a data-cke-saved-href="http://battletrance.bandcamp.com/album/blade-of-love" href="http://battletrance.bandcamp.com/album/blade-of-love"&amp;amp;gt;Blade of Love by Battle Trance&amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;gt;
For more information about Friday's show, you can check the event info on BMCM+AC's website and the Facebook event page.
Listen to Blade of Love on Bandcamp.