Battle Trance - Blade of Love
Tenor saxophone quartet Battle Trance's sophomore album Blade of Love was released digitally and on CD August 26, 2016 on New Amsterdam Records, with a vinyl edition released by NNA Tapes. The follow-up to their widely acclaimed debut Palace of Wind (2014), Blade of Love is an elemental composition that aims to fulfill the tenor saxophone's expansive potential as an ensemble instrument. Working within the intimate intersection of the human body/breath and the saxophone, Blade of Love is a spiritual and enigmatic work with a deep emotional resonance.
Since forming in 2012, the four saxophonists in Battle Trance (Travis Laplante, Patrick Breiner, Matt Nelson, Jeremy Viner) have spent hundreds of hours deepening their musical connection with each other, maturing as an ensemble through relentless touring everywhere from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Montreal to Vancouver, and most places in between.
The three movements of Blade of Love were composed by Battle Trance leader Travis Laplante and recorded by the group in a wooden room with soaring ceilings in the Vermont forest, after spending two years of rigorous rehearsals working to perfect the array of extended techniques, both virtuosic and primal, required to bring the challenging piece to life.
Blade of Love's central focus is on the physical and spiritual intersection of the saxophone and the human body. The saxophone is one of the few instruments that literally enters the body of the person playing it, and Blade of Love is a medium for this sacred meeting place, with each member of Battle Trance using the saxophone as a vessel for the human spirit.
Singing has an inherent power, but that power is heightened in the context of Blade of Love. At times, the four players sing while exhaling through the saxophone tubes, using the instrument's keys to shift the timbre of their voices. Laplante also integrates non-traditional mouth articulations, using the saxophone as a resonant chamber for these inventive sounds. Laplante explains:
"There were certain specific sounds that I imagined being in Blade of Love, but I couldn't get close enough to them using traditional saxophone tone — sounds like arrows flying through the air, birds singing or flying overhead, bombs, water running, the wind, campfires, singing in church, making love, killing, waves crashing, fighting for your life, thunder, the sound of rage, howling, crying, laughing, the sound of my last breath… So I began working on different ways for the saxophone to get closer to these sounds, and the resulting techniques became part of the fabric of Blade of Love."
Travis Laplante describes composing Blade of Love as "the most torturous and demanding compositional experience of my life." He continues: "It's painful for me to try to explain what this music 'means,' because in a sense it has no meaning — and at the same time, it means everything. I just hope Blade of Love will release something in both the listener and the performer's hearts. It doesn't ask for anything in return."
Press and News:
Bandcamp: Best of Bandcamp Contemporary Classical, November 2016 - "an astounding range of emotions and attacks without ever feeling dilettantish...getting lost within it can be an absorbing and haunting experience."
Chicago Reader: "This absence of familiar structures and vocabulary forbids you from using mental shorthand to process this music—with its intricate textures and priestly patience, it invites you instead to awaken to full presence."
Music and More: "The haunting sound of breath weaves through the third and final track, making for an ominous and spooky feel, before the music develops in an imaginative fashion with the musicians circling around each other as the volume rises."
Second Inversion: "...jolts you out of your everyday surroundings and promptly thrusts you into a kaleidoscopic realm of bold colors and even bolder sounds—an entire world of tangled noises you didn’t even know existed."
The Quietus: "On the whole, this album is massive, filmic, and indeed, even more fucked, all without wholly turning their collective back on that hoary old parlor trick we call melody. It's a ripper that few, if any, are likely to beat in the near future."
Q2 Music: 10 Cutting-Edge Artists That Have Captured the Imagination Mid-Year - Battle Trance’s performances are continuous, meditative and soaring sonic experiences that deeply resonate within the acoustic space they occupy, together in sympathy, as a single entity.