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Arts + CultureAnteloper's 'Pink Dolphins' grasps the tone of a country...

Anteloper’s ‘Pink Dolphins’ grasps the tone of a country in disarray, via jazz energy

Trumpeter jaimie branch's horn screams over the kind of unpredictable rhythms with which we're all learning to live.

Anteloper was created a few years ago by free jazz trumpeter jaimie branch, known for her ethereal Fly or Die albums, and drummer Jason Nazary, known for leaving his percussive stamp on work with Helado Negro, Bear In Heaven, and Little Women. Longstanding friends and collaborators (they first met in Boston in their late teens), the two engaged Jeff Parker to produce Pink Dolphins, their five-song journey into “psychedelic space music.”

The group’s two previous albums, Kudu in 2018 and the massive Tour Beats Vol. 1 in 2020, allowed these musicians to suggest concepts without seeking definite solutions. It was all about the chase, pursuits that went further into the unexplored area between jazz and electronic music, punk’s contrarian revolutionary attitude, and the ability to transmit something that was already in the modern zeitgeist. Maybe a certain presidential election night outcome on Tuesday, November 8, 2016 provided inspiration?

Anteloper’s ‘Pink Dolphins’ album art

Regardless of varying reference points, these two provide cohesive new techniques for refining their jazz pastiche in the form of electronic triggers, modular FX units, synthesizers, sequencers, delay/looper pedals, extra percussion, and Roland TR08 drum machines. In Pink Dolphins opener “Inia,” we strike the tonal cliff with contemplative vigor. The album is Anteloper’s clearest release to date, conjuring the feeling of an inquiry. It’s sometimes unpleasant, always interesting, and undeniably covered in new school electronic drip. These truth-seekers explore different frequencies in order to awaken—folk.

So, develop that inner ear and ask yourself, “How did we get here, culturally?”

Jeff Parker, who was “immediately happy” to be a part of the production, employing his digital cut-up process and editing (something a little lost in Anteloper’s previous efforts) gave this album a third ear and Yoda lean. Even better: in Parker, Anteloper discovered its Teo Macero.

Risk always acknowledges risk. According to branch, Miles Davis’ Live Evil has a hold over this project—high praise, given that it’s also Parker’s favorite Miles record.

But, appropriate. The day after Woodstock, Davis went in to record Bitches Brew. If ever there was a cultural landmark, this was it. Miles, reading the room of the nation far better than Nixon, was going to change music again, whether it was on purpose or not. It was time to reach out on a different frequency. Rock, funk, jazz, and for that matter, WTF, had the ear of a new generation. Politics had shifted the country’s focus. Davis was going to find its pulse, one mo’ ‘gin.

While the comparison is far from airtight, the line from Miles during his cosmic fusion phase up to Pink Dolphins becomes evident on the latter’s shouting-into-the-abyss bruiser “Baby Bota Halloceanation,” where 21st century blues gets heated. Those ticker-tape updates about blue-state-red-state influence, massive shootings of marginalized people across the country, constitutional rights getting eaten up by right-wing crumb snatchers, Twitter’s algorithmic jingoism staying on fleek, and fascist narratives—sometimes spoken in coded language, other times flaunted butt-naked and wet, IRT, (thanks Uncle Clarence)—get shouted into the cavernous gorge where the country appears to live these days.

The horn of branch screams. Questions and answers. Leads the charge, responds to the call, and provides bait and switch background shenanigans. Sun Ra, Mouse on Mars, J Dilla, Moor Mother, Harriet Tubman, and Autechre are the resistance energies leaping from that horn. They take up space within Nazary’s pockets of disruptive meter. Chaotic groove.

Simply striking, back-bashing, and shooting the unpredictable rhythm that we all struggle and deal with on a daily basis.

Nazary is the only drummer who keeps branch off-kilter, making those blasts of shriek even more unsettling, just a cut deeper. Perhaps because they are so close, Nazary has the inside scoop, knows her poker tell. She is well aware, making their art so transparent. Pink Dolphins highlights Nazary breaking new ground, expanding the group’s brief, yet far-reaching career.

These long-time comrades, like Mr. Davis, grasp the correct tone of a country in disarray. It may not always feel great—take their closing 15-minute epilogue “One Living Genus,” an acid-fried, nebulous John Carpenter dirge. Most punk and blues, at their best, aren’t meant to pat anyone on the back. But Anteloper, my God, in one of their finest moments to date, holds up a cracked mirror to reality.

Buy Anteloper’s Pink Dolphins here.

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John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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