Macroscopia is a leaderless outing made up of Carter, Ken Silverman, Claire DeBrunner and Tom Zlabinger. All seven tracks seem to begin en medias res, a series of free improvisations with a chamber feel that ebb and flow but never resolve themselves.
Zlabinger’s bass is mic’d nice and close, a hypnotic and integral part of the group’s sound; one doesn’t miss the drums in the least. DeBrunner’s bassoon is an unlikely ingredient that works exceptionally well, easily mistaken for a saxophone or bass clarinet. Silverman’s oud strumming is highly unconventional, almost abrasive, stuttering and his guitar is much given over to subtle tremolos and other distortions. Carter’s trumpet and saxes float throughout the mix at various levels of audition, as if reluctant to show himself too soon. It’s hard to focus on any one player for very long and, to be honest, Macroscopia doesn’t sound like much of anything on first listen.
Repeated spins reveal the folly and one begins to appreciate the subtlety and brilliance of this work. It resembles nothing so much as Out to Lunch – that is, if all five of Eric Dolphy’s compositions were layered on top one another, like a word scribbled ad infinitum until only an abstract blot remains. This is an album about texture, how instruments-as-chemicals interact with one another to form new substances. If listeners are reluctant to name it one of 2010’s best releases, one must admit that it is one of the most intriguing.