With a glowing harmonic hue that only grows stronger as we sink deeper and deeper into the track, Ian C. Bouras and Dion Abraham’s stellar “Improvisation” begins ever so mutedly in the middle of the tracklist for the pair’s new collaboration album Refractions of Sound, but much like the melancholic “Concoction,” it doesn’t take very long for the song to have our full attention with little more than its keen textural expressiveness. There’s scarcely a moment in Refractions of Sound where Bouras and his partner in crime aren’t using every compositional tool at their disposal to make the sonic journey a bit more stimulating for us, and whether it be the toned-down, molasses-like sway of “Concoction” or the slightly more assertive twists and turns of “Wrinkle,” we’re never afforded much more than a short patch of silence to collect our thoughts before the next deluge of decadence and discord comes pouring out of the speakers with not a thing in this world to stop, or slow, its steady flow.
I had so much fun at Ole Sal’s open mic recently. Not many people showed up to perform, so I got to jam with, one of my favorite sax players, Dion Abraham:) I haven’t seen Dion in a while, and enjoy playing with him, so I’m thrilled we got the chance!
“Soundscape” begins Refractions of Sound with a punishingly intoxicating synthetic part that quickly gives way to droning strings as endearing as the darkest of rare eclipses. This number isn’t quite the zany beast that “Invention” is, but to be completely honest, not very many songs are. You don’t have to be an expert in the avant-garde arts to understand and appreciate just how much dexterity is going into the arranging of the space-aged melodies in this disc, but for those of us who have an ear for the extreme in music, this is one of those LPs that is just about impossible to put down after it’s first picked up. “Extemporization” might be the best example of Bouras and Abraham’s raw chemistry coming together in real-time, but even at the track’s most fluid and reserved, it feels much as all of the other songs here do – like a collection of sounds extracted from the space between an orbiting satellite and the earth below. For my money, free improvisation doesn’t get much more eclectic than this, nor does it get quite as emotionally impactful (in the right settings of course).
Refractions of Sound comes to a conclusion on the back of the eleven and a half minute-long “Creation,” and although this track is by far the longest and most-involved listen of any that you’re going to find on the album, it doesn’t dwarf the similarly ambitious “Ad-Lib” at all; contrarily, I think that each of the songs here works to magnify the cratering vibrations of those beside them. Ian C. Bouras and Dion Abraham might not be two major label-backed, household names in the world of music and performing arts at the moment, but if you’re keeping tabs on the underground experimental beat, theirs is a sound that I would recommend getting yourself acquainted with a lot sooner than later. Bouras’ discography keeps adding exquisite gems like this one, and in the 2020s, I hope to hear even more of his work both as a solo player and as a contributor to a grander vision for western music as we’ve come to know it.