|Shijin : Theory of Everything : Alter-Nativ Records|
If you have a passion for interesting and challenging music that has elements of complexity that doesn’t totally lose you in its own labyrinthian constructions, then you owe yourself a listen to Shijin’s second and latest album Theory of Everything. This international group has substantially the same personnel as the original group featured on their debut album SHIJIN released back in 2018. The saxophonist, originally Jacques Schwartz-Bart who was raised in Guadalupe, has been replaced on this album with the fortuitous addition, multi-horn artist Stephane Guillaume from France.
The group is captained by the electric bassist and composer Laurent David whose probing basslines set the bearing and heartbeat of the group. All the members are listed as co-composers of all the songs on this album. As record producer David says in his press release “All interactions, harmonies, rhythms, and melodies generated arise from the energy of the void!”
Take the leadoff song “Mystery of the White Dwarf” which is introduced by the ostinato bass of David, the pulsing percussion of Belgium drummer Stephane Galland and supported brilliantly by the lead duo of Brazilian Malcolm Braff’s acoustic and electric piano work and the fluid saxophone musings of Guillaume. These guys meld their sounds together in sympathetic and adventurous ways. This is explorative fusion with an inherent groove.
“Unexpected Discovery” opens with a repeating bass line that creates the setting for a more ruminative adventure, an aural mind journey. David’s bass lines ring out like a traveler’s beacon in the darkness. Guillaume flawlessly doubles on tenor and flute. His flute lines dance like a nymph in a gauzy dream. Gallard’s cymbals shimmer and he offers a brief but effective syncopated drum accompaniment.
No matter how this group mixes up the melody they always anchor the music in some rhythmic continuum. On “Golden Age” Braff’s electronic keyboard adds an atmospheric element and David’s bass solo is a digging excursion over’s Gallard’s drum work.
The powerfully driven “Implosion” is a testament to how well these skilled musicians can come together as a potent vehicle for expression. Braff’s piano work explores with passion and creativity. Guillaume’s tenor wails and the rhythm section of David and Gallard is pure syncopated propulsion.
The group returns to a more reflective approach to “Time Travel” one of the more melodic compositions of the album and one of my favorites. Braff’s piano solo work is given time to explore, and he delivers with a flourishing touch that sometimes morphs into a more percussive approach. The pace quickens and Guillaume offers a serpentine soprano solo that creates tonal variety and excitement here. He also adds the lower sonorous tones of a bass clarinet that he overdubs. This group knows how to skillfully use the aural tone palette available to them from these talented musicians and they can certainly build on a groove.
“Separating Circle” finds Gallard playing a duet with himself displaying a rhythmic sophistication that is a joy.
“You Are Here” features the Rhodes and CP-70 keyboard work of Braff and Guillaume returning to an expanded work on tenor, skillfully overdubbing flute in parts.
The final composition of the album is titled “Curved Wrinkles” and starts off with some tinkling piano notes, a funky bassline and a strong backbeat. Guillaume is on tenor and he and Braff trade lines as the rhythm section keep the pace.
If you enjoy pulsing, probing, and excellently played fusion based music then Shijin’s Theory of Everything is sure to please.