Richmond Avant Improv Collective - Lamentations [Self Release - 2019]Richmond Avant Improv Collective (RAIC) create a decidedly dense, darkly dramatic, at times ritual charged & creepy brand of improv. Lamentations is the collectives latest releases, and it comes in the form of a decidedly plush box set- this takes in a fifty-six minute CD album, a collection of 18 postcards taking in pictures of rundown rural America & texts, slimline cardboard box featuring a sticker, and a glossy paper slip sleeve.
The collective is focused around six key members- but for this release, we have a line-up of nine players taking in Samuel Goff- Drums, Percussion, Keyboards, Vocals .Erik Schroeder - Alto Saxophone, Percussion .Zoe Olivia Kinney - Cello, Vocals . Laura Marina - Vocals, Keyboards, Electronics, Percussion . Jacob Courington - Bass .Robert Andrew Scott - Violin, Guitar, Vocals . Brandon Simmons - Flute . John Saint Pelvyn - Vocals, Guitar .Paul Metzger - Banjo, Guitar.
It’s fair to say much of this fourteen track album has a very lose, wondering, and at time muddled in both it’s structure & flow. Pretty much each of the tracks here drifts & ebbs through different genres, paces, and moods- one minute you maybe listening to eerie jabbering witch like vocal vocals over a rising ritual fed atmosphere, then the next we’ve moved into a haphazard blend of neoclassical swoon & awkward folky vocalizing. Or we begin with a careering blend of avant jazz & clamoring folk music before sequencing into American Indian ritual music meets build jam rock. I’m all for genre blending, moody switching, and jarring-ness in my music- but here the whole thing just feels badly hung together & arranged music. There seems little rhyme or reason too for the tracks shifts, and often they sound very awkward & wonky in a bad way.
There are some interesting moments, and elements at play throughout the album, but sadly these are rarely developed or built in any meaningful way- instead they either diluted or lessen the impact by new musical tangents or instrumental additions. Yes, one of the key & interesting facets of improv is the free-ness of the whole thing, but there has to be some remnants of flow, composition present- and sadly with Lamentations, these are all but non-existent.
It’s a real pity that the musical side of this release couldn’t have been more on-point & consistent- as clearly the collective has put a lot of work/ effort into the releases packing- the eighteen postcards are double sided- with a full-color picture of a rundown rural building on one side, and theme related text- be it a short story, poem, or dark musings on the other. And the general look/ presentation of the release is clearly well thought out & planned.
I really wanted to like Lamentations- as the idea of mood & darkly blended impov is an interesting one, as is the theme of rundown rural America. But sadly the main focus of the release, the music, is just too lose, unstructured & messy for its own good- meaning ones attention either wanes, or you just get frustrated by the almost zero feeling of flow & composition here.