Jason Rubenstein – Piano, synthesizers, samplers
Tom Hipskind – Drums
Shawn Sommer – Bass and Bass Synthesizer
Bugra Sisman – Electric guitar
Chuck Bontrager – 7-string violin
Daniël van den Berg – Acoustic and electric guitars
It’s a chilly, sizzling masterpiece.
And I’m not sure how Jason does this- but the stark, percussive, unison piano lines in the lower register, pounding out dramatic sequences accompanied by bass and drums- well, somehow one gets the idea there are mysteries and coils in Jason’s brain.
There are no resting places.
No places to pause, doff your hat, cool your heels, or take a restful breath. Although the music is rarely harsh or overpowering, there’s a steely core that makes you think you’d better stay focused.
And there’s heat in that steely core. Passion. Intensity.
Jason seems like a big-brain person- one of those guys with more folds, and cells, and capacities than some of us lesser mortals. Things make sense and add up in different ways that sometimes appear to defy convention.
You could say he’s a visionary and folks, it doesn’t seem like a real easy, laid-back kind of world Jason inhabits.
There’s something compelling in that vision.
He attracts luminous musicians who are equally drawn to that light Jason emits, and who add immeasurably to it.
I was trying to find a weak spot in the ensemble that surrounds this music and fleshes it out.
At the heart of this music is pounding, percussive, demanding piano.
Not swanky lounge-lizard piano, or sweet, relaxing piano- no. Restless, gouging, growling piano.
Jason elsewhere mentioned Philip Glass, ELP, King Crimson, and Nine Inch Nails as influences.
I think though that he’s clearly morphed into a defining “voice” of his own.
There are four tracks-
Consideration: that driving, percussive piano, precision from all players, complex and shifting time signatures, cool echo guitar, flowing piano, impeccable rhythm section.
Acceleration: arpeggiated piano lines, turning into a ‘crazed calypso on acid’ with some slinky bass guitar work, flaring and soaring synth work, all ending on one dark piano stroke.
Unequivocation: beginning with some garbled static- voices? chaos?, then that piano at the heart. The stark unison lines with piano, bass, and the tasteful drums augmenting it all, growing more crisp and complex…then some flamenco-like acoustic guitar simmering over the top in fiery, restless tones…morphing into electric virtuosity, all with a Latin flavor.
Conviction: flowing bass line, that amazing rhythm section that never over-plays, cool clinking organ tones as the tune builds, soaring synth work moving into an almost unbearable build-up…then…done.
Jason and fellow musicians have hammered out a rare musical sculpture- finely crafted, meticulous, icy-fire.
I give it five out of five chilly hot stars.
Four Points of Focus is due out June 25, 2018.