Recapping the Best of 2011: AJ Kluth’s Aldric – “Anvils and Broken Bells”


If, like me, most of your friends are into post-rock, with its sweeping melodies, ambient and/or drone tendencies, and the compositional habit of end points rarely looking like the territory the starting gun went off in, well, you might want to clue them in on AJ Kluth’s Aldric.  Because in many ways, with Anvils and Broken Bells, they’ve fused the post-rock of today with the 80s NYC downtown jazz scene skronk & sizzle of Zorn’s Naked City, so you’ll be giving your friends a dose of Jazz that’s masked in some food their audio palate is more attuned with.  See?  Everyone wins.

The first two album tracks are sonic typhoons; guitar strikes and horn battering rams, electronic squalls, torrent of drums, and sax whipping wildly about.  The third track “Pauls on Pauls” begins much the same, but suddenly the storm breaks and the tune is one of lazy rolling waves and clear skies.  That calm is only temporary, as the tempo rises and the waves swell, leading to a conclusion of heading right back into the storm.

“Saskatoon” is probably my favorite tune on the album.  It opens with a little bit of serenity, squiggly electronics and pings and beeps.  Then guitar comes in nice and slow, making short but poignant statements, accentuated by drums ponderously marching ahead.  Horn and sax enter with slow building notes, letting them hang in the air while bass echoes off the walls with the effects like contrails across a cloudy sky and melodica the sunlight filtering through the rifts in between.  And as if to prove that Aldric is more than sound and fury, “Trio Trois” continues the peaceful refrain, picking up the tempo and volume only at the end and only by use of a very catchy refrain.

From there, the album shows another face.  Mixing the swirling dissonance of the first third and the peaceful repetition of the second, the last third of the album brings together those elements into a fiery set of grooves which one could either mosh pit or foot tap to.  Ultimately, it’s a satisfying bit of transformation that brings cohesion to an album that may have given first and second impressions of stealing off in a direction and not looking back.

I first heard Anvils and Broken Bells about six months ago (approx. July 2011), and it has really grown on me.  I keep finding more and better things to appreciate about it, and enthusiastically include it as one of my top recommended albums of 2011.

Y’know, speaking of when I first heard the album… When I went to create the link to the page on AllAboutJazz where you can download a free album track, I saw my original editor’s comment on it.  Apparently even back then, this ensemble’s sound invoked in my head a nautical theme.  Here’s what I wrote…

“So, Paul Motion, Kenny Wheeler, Joe Lovano, and Bill Frisell get lost at sea on a boat. It begins to storm and the wind picks up. The steering is shot, the boat spins out of control, and they decide to spend their last moments alive playing out. That’s kinda what this song is like. Pretty cool.”

It would appear my opinion hasn’t so much changed as expanded.  And I still think this album is very cool.

Your album personnel:  AJ Kluth (tenor sax, melodica, effects), James Davis (trumpet, effects), Toby Summerfield (electric guitar, many buttons & knobs), Dan Thatcher (electric bass) and Quin Kirchner (drums & cymbals).

Released on the Origin/OA2 label.

Listen to more of the album at the artist’s Soundcloud page.

Music from Chicago.

Available at:  Amazon