The desert trio from Utah move into more abstract formations. Like sand dunes sculpted by the winds.
This latest offering from these denizens of the Utah desert finds them moving ever further into experimentation while retaining much of what drove them in the first place. The trio of Hal Cannon, Greg Istock and Eli Wrankle set out on their voyage several albums ago, describing their sound as American desert music and including songs originally recorded in the field by John Lomax. Since then they have explored the sounds of the desert and its timeline of various peoples and tribes, celebrating Native Americans and cowboys and cultures much more ancient and shamanistic. Their last release, a live album, was described as “A single piece of music, a desert symphony rising out of our home in Zion Canyon.”
‘Lost Sessions’ continues in this vein as the songs and tunes leach into one another. The vocals, when they appear, are disembodied, taking, for the most part, a back seat to the rumbling and pulsating manipulation of their instruments. At times it’s not Americana or folk that comes to mind as the trio recall the experimentation of Charlie Mingus (with Istock’s bass playing the primary driver here), while the ten-minute opus, ‘Disquieting’, ripples with the iridescent beauty of Alice Coltrane’s works. ‘Attack Of The Shadows’ is a similar “trance” like affair but here it’s the basic sound of the trio on guitar, double bass and violin locking into a claustrophobic groove as they manage to come across as if they were a string band version of Kraftwerk on their very own desert autobahn. From Germany to Scotland, they deliver a throbbing and increasingly frantic instrumental called ‘Gallus’, a word they picked up on their visits to the Celtic kingdom.
‘No In-Between’ is described by the band as a portrait of a grandfatherly figure gently admonishing a grandson for spending too much time on computer gaming. That’s definitely not apparent as one listens to the song which is based on a stout yet supple double bass foundation with abstract piano, violin and voice wafting in and out. The voices whisper, “There’s no in-between” but the song does serve as a sort of in-between for the more experimental elements of the album and then a couple of songs which tie the band to the ground. The opening number, ‘In Or Out’, is classic 3Hattrio with Istock wailing over a percussive background with shamanistic vocals whirling around and Cannon’s ‘Lost In The Woods’ is an evocative portrait of the perils of the frontier. The closing song, ‘Pushing You Down’, finds Istock back in the vocal seat on another of his perilous and hypnotic song chants as the band whip up a veritable desert storm.
Much as some painters begin with landscapes or portraits and then grow into more abstract forms, 3Hattrio push their boundaries further afield on this stunning collection. The album title alludes to a catastrophic loss of the recordings when a hard drive had a piano land on it. Via the wonders of modern technology, the data was retrieved but it’s not data we’re listening to here. It’s a vibrant and heady listen, the ancient mixed with the modern and all delivered by three wizards of the desert.