Lavender is a music group centered at Wesleyan University. Their debut is an inspiring and innovative tour de force of complex harmonics, austere, well-controlled dynamics, and intervallic intrigue. Headed by guitarist and composer Charlie Looker, the band also includes clarinetist Julie Strand, saxophonist Rees Archibald, and bassist Nat Baldwin. The set opens with "Covered in Moss," a five-part suite that studies the creation and release of various timbral motifs and the architecture of controlled spherical tensions. Each movement is a bit more present than the one preceding it, all erected along small but increasingly intricate harmonic figures by Looker. What is most interesting is the equanimity of the ensemble; there are no standouts, no accents more on one series of tonalities or sonorities than another. Looker himself is perhaps the most restrained. On "Improvisation," gently swirling alto and guitar lines engage the clarinets and bass; counterpoint is played in eights and nines as the group feels each other out for the first couple of minutes before winding down a path of microtonal intimacy and striated montage assemblage. Finally, on "Black Shale," the group tosses some of their restraint to the dogs and builds on Looker's repetitive chordal figures with long tones coming out of emptied intervals via opaque arpeggios from the reeds and woodwinds. In all it's a pretty fascinating ride, academic at times but never devoid of emotion or humor.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek