By Ivana Ng | Published September 2020
Nir Felder’s sophomore album moves fluidly from meditative notes to explosive riffs with a forceful throughline of rock, blues and jazz. It is a natural culmination of the past decade for the guitarist, when he honed his craft by touring and collaborating with innovators across the musical spectrum.
Felder convened a new trio for II with bassist Matt Penman and drummer Jimmy Macbride, and the pair provides a foil to Felder’s philosophical motifs and textural musings, able to deftly summon evocative melodies and powerful hooks. Rich instrumentation—the trio recorded live with a variety of overdubs—adds delicate complexity to an already intricate record.
Felder builds elaborate textures to convey time and movement throughout; the sumptuous “Big Heat” evokes the bandleader’s experiences bringing together avant-jazz artists for extended improvisational sets. And “Fire In August” features Macbride’s explosive drums beneath Felder’s freewheeling melody and Penman’s bluesy, bass-driven riffs. II demonstrates a diverse lexicon of influences and technical acuity, but the trio is just scratching the surface. Felder has a follow-up—titled 2.1—planned for this year, which should delve even deeper into the ideas explored here.
II: The Longest Star; Interregnum; Fire In August; Coronation; Big Heat; Big Swim; War Theory. (46:58)
Personnel: Nir Felder, guitar, mandolin, banjo, electric sitar, keyboards, MPC; Matt Penman, bass; Jimmy Macbride, drums; Jeff Babko (1), piano; Doug Yowell (5), percussion; Floyd Red Crow Westerman (5), vocals.