|"Nodwell's compositions are so well-conceived and performed that I was totally gripped." —Jazz Review, UK
Nemesis takes listeners on a heroic journey of transformation, portraying a shamanic descent into the underworld to retrieve the spiritual fire. It is a dual world where the familiar becomes arresting, and expectations are suspended, fulfilled, and transformed. The pieces, in turn somber and mischievous, intense and joyful, uncover a broad spectrum of qualities and compositional ideas - the results are both innovative and beautiful.
Lyrical themes, passionate improvisations, and evocative harmonies fill the record, while deeper listening reveals subtle layering, an overarching sense of form, and a play on expectations. Nodwell explains: "I wanted to explore the song form, to see how much I could stretch and warp the standard song structure, how much I could put in or take out, and still have the essence be a song. The forms curl and twist, continually presenting the material in a different light. The music plays with expectations, establishing familiar signposts while laying out unfamiliar terrain, drawing the listener into an enigmatic dreamlike soundspace. It deliberately hovers between the familiar worlds of inside and free jazz, never quite committing to either, creating an unsettling psychological tension. I tried to balance, or at least juxtapose, this tension with the lyricism of heartfelt songs." Rhythmically, there's a seamless weaving of metric shifts and harmonic shifts, as well as occasional tempo changes, or multiple tempos.
Each song is its own complex soundworld; from the quietly ominous bass and piano of the title track to the swinging drums of Fleetâ and the achingly gorgeous twinned trumpet and guitar of Aura, the instruments loop, weave and mesh to create rich textural soundscapes. The ensemble executes these challenging compositions with subtlety and grace. The varied timbres are faithfully conveyed in a transparent analogue recording mixed to 2-channel and 5-channel DSD (with surround sound options used judiciously to enhance the music's moods).
The musicians were handpicked by Nodwell for their particular voices. "This is the ideal band to play this music. Everyone is comfortable playing inside and out, and in terms of blowing over changing metres these are probably the best cats out there. They all access the full palette of timbres and shadings on their instruments, giving this quintet an almost orchestral richness. I love the uncommon combination of trumpet and electric guitar, and wrote these pieces specifically with Ron and Khabu's sounds in mind. I first heard Ron in about 1993, in a basement space with an audience of about five. He had one of the most beautiful trumpet sounds IÕd ever heard - simultaneously joyous and poignant. While rooted in bop, his ideas sounded fresh and daring, with incredible phrasing. I played with Khabu for a couple years while in Boulder. He's one of the most boundlessly creative musicians I've ever heard. Art has been a major inspiration to me. I moved to Colorado to study with him in 1994, when I was making my first baby steps in composition, so it was awesome working with Art as a cohort. He's a musical force, with an uncanny knack for adding little gestures that elevate the music to a new level, and an incredible sense of structure. Drew and Tom lay the solid foundation for some wickedly difficult charts and make it sound totally natural. Drew's unstoppable bounce and Tom's swirling intensity lay the perfect groundwork for this music."