Kneebody's fourth studio album and Concord debut, 2013's The Line, delivers more of what we've come to expect from the experimental ensemble's unique all-instrumental approach. Once again showcasing the talents of keyboardist Adam Benjamin, trumpeter Shane Endsley, bassist/guitarist Kaveh Rastegar, saxophonist Ben Wendel, and drummer Nate Wood, The Line marks the first time Kneebody have worked with a producer (Chris Dunn) and a sound engineer (Todd Burke), as most of their previous albums were self-produced. Utilizing Dunn and Burke seems to have freed the band to let loose in the studio. Consequently, the album has a raw, high-energy vibe that matches the group's frenetic live performances. Also, with songs that are melodic but still harmonically knotty and dynamically engaging, the album fits nicely within the group's aesthetic of making challenging music that defies easy categorization. All of the members of Kneebody are university-trained musicians with a deep working knowledge of jazz traditions. And as you might expect, much of the material on The Line has a basis in improvisational jazz and, more specifically, avant-garde and post-bop jazz of the '70s. That said, one would be hard-pressed to pigeonhole any of the songs on the album as pure jazz; many of the rhythms here have more in common with rock and electronic music. In that sense, Kneebody are also a spiritual continuation of the Chicago post-rock movement of the 1990s and bring to mind the work of such similarly genre-bending bands as Tortoise and Isotope 217. Many of the songs on The Line are built around repeated keyboard riffs or fractured funk drumbeats. There is also plenty of serpentine, harmonically complex, bop-influenced trumpet and saxophone. That said, Kneebody are more interested in creating long-form movements than featuring extended solo improvisations. As a result, the emphasis on The Line is largely centered around group interplay and layered aural textures, rather than virtuosic individual statements.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar