Battle Trance - Palace of Wind

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Release Date: August 26, 2014

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Called "an achievement not just for the saxophone, but for avant-garde composition as a whole" (PopMatters) and a "beauteous and masterful deception unlike anything else" (New Firmament), Palace of Wind is the debut full-length release from Travis Laplante's genre-defying tenor saxophone quartet Battle Trance. Amongst its many accolades, the album has been lauded as "mesmerizing" by the New York Times, an "engulfing sonic swam" by Live Eye TV, and "breathtaking" by FMDUST. The group also released a brief video trailer for the album, featuring a dreamlike montage of the performers and audio from the record.

Palace of Wind is a piece that not only transcends genres, but also transcends time and space. Existing in the cracks between contemporary classical music, avant-garde jazz, black metal, ambient, and world music, Palace of Wind is an album-length composition that pushes the four saxophonists to the limit, shedding new light on the saxophone as an ensemble instrument. The players use circular breathing to build continuous, hypnotic waves of sound; multiphonics layer to create intricate textures that seem to come from an ancient time; and blisteringly fast lines seem to liquefy into each other. Unorthodox articulations and unusual fingerings are also part of the vast sonic vocabulary that the members of Battle Trance have painstakingly mastered. However, Palace of Wind isn't merely concerned with demonstrating the virtuosity of the ensemble, nor with impressing or entertaining the listener. Instead, it is meant to be a portal of resonance where there is no separation between the listener and the sound.

Battle Trance had an auspicious inception. One morning, Travis Laplante (Little Women and a trio with bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Ches Smith) literally awoke with the crystal clear vision that he needed to start an ensemble with three specific individuals Matthew Nelson, Jeremy Viner, and Patrick Breiner. Laplante was actually unfamiliar with their work as musicians and had only a minimal relationship with them as individuals. He was also aware that a band of four tenor saxophones could be the worst idea ever. In spite of this, Laplante followed through and contacted Nelson, Viner, and Breiner. He gave them very little information beyond his morning experience. But no one hesitated - the ensemble formed that evening.

Since many of the techniques used in the piece are nearly impossible to notate in traditional form, Palace of Wind was transmitted via the oral tradition. The rehearsals were much like martial arts training: intricate sounds were rigorously copied and repeated by the ensemble members until they perfected the techniques. Many hours were spent building the sheer strength required to sustain continuous circular breathing for extended periods. Likewise, a steady focus on physicality was required to repeat rapid note patterns for long periods without sacrificing speed. Palace of Wind is such a demanding composition that there is a high risk of physically burning out before the piece concludes, as once it begins there is no opportunity for rest or even a quick drink of water. There was also extensive training in dissolving the distinct individual identities of the players into the greater collective sound: The band did various long-tone exercises, similar to group meditation, the purpose being to blend together into one sound, so that the origin of the collective sound's components is completely impossible to discern - even by the members of the ensemble.

Palace of Wind does embrace both the cerebral nature of composition and the visceral act of performance, but immediately locates itself, the musicians and the audience in a purely spiritual space. It is a new kind of music and therefore modern, and yet it's absolutely primordial, the transformative act of human beings blowing air through tubes and producing something timeless. Listen - really listen - and be transformed.

Battle Trance is Travis Laplante, Matthew Nelson, Jeremy Viner, and Patrick Breiner.

Press and News:

The Jakarta Post: The Year in Music 2015 - Plenty of great things

Boston Becomes Eclectic: "an endless maze of layered sounds bouncing off each other and blending into one gigantic torrent"

Downbeat Magazine: "a knockout performance by the New York saxophone quartet Battle Trance...harmonically rich, sonically dense..."

The Boston Globe: Sax quartet Battle Trance promotes improvisation for all

JazzTimes: Battle Trance - Pushing Back Against an Unfocused, Insincere World

Speakers in Code: "breaking new ground in the art music aural journey unlike any other"

PopMatters: The Best Hopes to Break Out in 2015 - Palace of Wind is "one of the most thrilling pieces of contemporary classical composition"

FMDUST: Best of 2014 - #2, "breathtaking"

Doklands Daily Music Blog: "one of the most invigorating recordings of 2014...remarkable, genre-busting new music.

Boston Hassle: "engrossing, offering up that rare, fleeting sonic world for getting lost in...more beautiful, uplifting, and madness filled compositions I have not heard all year."

PopMatters: Best Albums of 2014 - #38 - "music that soars, glides, and dives to realms that few musicians have dreamt about, let alone touched... wonderful insanity through musical kinship"

Magnet Magazine: Best of 2014: Jazz/Improv - #10

Jazz Right Now: Best Albums of 2014 - #2

The Georgia Straight: "a seamless, riverine flow, winding in turn through restful shallows and rushing rapids...displays considerable compositional complexity while retaining the feel of an improvised piece..."

New Noise Magazine: "Aptly titled, it’s both trance like and seemingly a war with saxophones as weapons."

The Quietus: "deeper listening reveals remarkable technique and restraint to temper (but not diminish) the music's primordial oomph"

New York Times: "mesmerizing...a floating tapestry of fascinating textures made up of tiny musical motifs, and a music that throbs with tension between stillness and agitation, density and light."

Tiny Mix Tapes: 2014 Third Quarter Favorites - "one of the more affective releases to show up this year"

PopMatters (show preview): "Palace of Wind is an achievement not just for the saxophone, but for avant-garde composition as a whole."

PopMatters (album review): "Palace of Wind isn’t just superb music, it’s a reminder you can sometimes accomplish much more with far, far less."

Time Out New York: "wild, enveloping sound"

Village Voice: "Its three meditative epics dizzy the senses with a therapeutic, classical-imbued drone- jazz, fusing circular breathing and relentlessly intertwining skronk, making for an intensely Zen experience that is both chaotic and cathartic. Prepare to be transported to the otherworld."

The Big City: "one of the more intriguing records of the year"

Free Jazz Blog: "otherworldly and hypnotic sound"

The Whole Note: "air currents you probably won’t want to miss hearing."

New Firmament: "A beauteous and masterful deception unlike anything else."

Hartzine: "simply breathtaking mastery, grace and magic."

NOW Magazine: "the four layers of tenor sax blending into each other make the overall results quite distinct, and occasionally exhilaratingly terrifying."

Wing Walker Music Podcast: "one of the most interesting and powerful albums that will be released this year."

Tiny Mix Tapes: "Palace of Wind’s narrative of ceaseless flux and rational impotence is undermined by its greatest strength: the rigor, intensity, and peerless coordination of its musicianship"

Seven Days Vermont: "unlike any record you'll hear this year" - A Conversation with Battle Trance Founder Travis Laplante

Wondering Sound: "A showcase for the sheer physicality of massed saxophones"

The Talkhouse: "The newness of Palace of Wind lies in the order and structure that contains that energy, and allows it to burst forth into your mind’s sky."

Search & Restore: "In This Case, One Is Greater Than Four," An Interview With Travis Laplante

Life is Noise: "played with a masterful precision...some of the most moving pieces of music likely to be released this year"

AdHoc: "flows from swirling ambience to bleating epiphany with the ephemeral and unquestionable logic of a dream"

Live Eye TV: "an engulfing sonic swarm"

The A.V. Club: Debut of first track - "a whole spectrum of hypnotic ethereality"

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