By Carlo Wolff | Published August 2016
Jazz and electronica merge in thrilling ways in this remote terrain that’s off the radar and close to the danger zone. Based on a phrase used by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to describe a cyber war, this music takes risks.
The kind of edgy, cybernetic jazz that trumpeter Dave Douglas makes with drummer Mark Guiliana (Donny McCaslin Quartet), bassist Jonathan Maron (Groove Collective, Maxwell) and electronics specialist Shigeto (aka Zach Saginaw) successfully marries the lyrical to the chilling, whether in “Celine,” “Let’s Get One Thing Straight” or “Neural,” a showcase for Douglas’ commanding and muscular melodicism.
Douglas and his group High Risk have created something original here. Dark Territory is addictive, and while it wears its influences—Miles Davis, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie, hip-hop—on its daring, highly stylized sleeve, it’s also unique.
It can be lyrical, too. “All The Pretty Horsepower” features a pensive statement by Douglas over electronics that sound like marbles skittering across a hardwood floor.
On the scarier side, “Let’s Get,” a tune composed by all members of the group, starts with scratch and wail and heavy breathing; the notes are so saturated with sustain that they seem to bend. The sound escalates as a horn or keyboard—is it Douglas or Shigeto?—furnishes the sonic room.
Douglas continues to push through the morphing soundscape, deploying very few notes to construct a haunting melody that hints at triumph, if not joy.
This group’s second recording is indeed dark; at the same time, it is always questing, always opening. Douglas has said that in “Let’s Get” he wanted the group to create a musical experience that was in the moment, “from one second to the next.”
That high-wire act makes Dark Territory exciting and necessary, as is the case throughout the album.
Dark Territory: Celine; All the Pretty Horsepower; Let’s Get One Thing Straight; Mission Acropolis; Ridge Hill; Neural; Loom Large. (40:12)
Personnel: Dave Douglas, trumpet; Mark Guiliana, drums; Jonathan Maron, bass; Shigeto, electronics.