Slavic Spirits

As promised in the liner notes, EABS avoids “imitating the Western sound” on Slavic Spirits. The thing is, though, they don’t sound especially Slavic, either. No, the Poland-based ensemble steers toward something more like ambient jazz, with touches of old-school fusion thrown in for good measure. It’s a mess, and it’s scintillating.

The use of ambient concepts is all but an in-joke, each track beginning with bird and animal calls. On “Leszy,” the birds quickly are subsumed by tense drama from pianist Marek Pedziwiatr, bassist Paweł Stachowiak and drummer Marcin Rak, who themselves are quickly overwhelmed by horns that play a melody both lazy and taut. The following “Południca” gets EABS to its most stereotypically Slavic, with what sounds like an accordion (it’s actually a medieval harmonium, courtesy of Pedziwiatr) before fiery trumpeter Jakub Kurek and hazy guitarist Vojto Monteur assume domination. The miasmal hum of “Przywitanie Słonca (Rytuał)” maintains an inky feeling, with “Przywitanie Słonca” adding watercolor layers of piano ostinato and joyful trumpet, trombone and tenor and soprano saxophone release over the top. It dispatches tension that one didn’t even know was building; it’s as if the music itself audibly unclenches.