Review: Geomag – below the river above the air (Jollies, Jul 29)

In the wake of the stadium-sized disappointment that was Eli Keszler’s most recent record, I’ve been on the lookout for new skittering ambient jazz fixes, and have found them in individual fragments and semblances across various releases—e.g., the ongoing Jusell, Prymek, Sage & Shiroishi series, Jelinek & Johannson’s puls-plus-puls—but never in a full-fledged form that hits the same spot. below the river above the air, the first recording from this trio of Indianapolis musicians MOS FET, Eustress, and Solid Squares, drifts lazily in the same humid dream-city of shimmering oil-slick rainbows and prismatic vapor as the aforementioned works, but it has little to tangibly ground it other than the occasional swish of brushes dragged across drum pieces or puffs of breath hissing through brass valves. The physicality that keeps things interesting comes in sparing pinches and splashes: crackling artifacts crumbling off the edges of gelatinous synth sweeps, tinny beat loops and warbling shortwave twiddles heard from far off, crowd noise and car horns suddenly too close for comfort. The fluidly organized tape feels extremely narrative, a quality that makes the music seem like it passes faster than puddles evaporating off asphalt on a hot day, and yet this crucial current is never too conspicuous, obscured enough by countless steamed-up panes of stained glass that anyone can imagine their own story. Without the constant presence of anxious drum set trembles, Geomag’s debut is much more of a glide than a stumble, and I can’t imagine it would work as well any other way.