Roam The Hello Clouds: Near Misses

In which Triosk drummer Laurence Pike and laptop alchemist Dave Miller join forces with trumpeter Phil Slater for a fifty-minute set of inspired jazz-electronic fusion. After convening for two simpatico live performances in 2003 and then 2004, the Australian cohorts, heretofore identified as Roam The Hello Clouds, booked themselves into a studio for a single day of free-wheeling improvisations that would eventually become the ten tracks on Near Misses.

Though Slater's playing cries jazz above all else, the material itself eludes such easy capture. There are skeletal funk workouts (“Geoff as the Hulk”), blues-funk settings (“A Life of Near Misses”), and atmospheric explorations too (the dirge “Death and Possible Dreams”). On “Supply,” the muted horn stretches out over a funereal, bass-heavy funk pulse, while gleaming vibes and funk drumming provide an animated backdrop for Slater's languorous playing in “Pretender's Hand.” His ‘60s-styled Milesian tendencies move to the fore on “This Mountain” and “Sprinter,” even if the latter's jerky groove and glitchy textures have little in common with the rhythm science practiced by Tony Williams and Ron Carter. The trumpeter even slips some Porgy and Bess-styled blues shadings into the slow-burning “Twenties in the Eighties.”

It's hard not to single out Slater, given the virtuosic range he displays throughout (check out the bravura shredding at the end of “Uniform 64”), but Pike's certainly his equal, and Miller also contributes a library of textures, patterns, and percussive noises to the group dialogue (apparently, much of his sounds derive from samples of the trio's live performance). Though his presence is relatively understated, Miller convincingly shows that a laptop can function as an improvising instrument too rather than just a metronomic source of loops for other musicians to lock into. If there's a downside to the album, it's that the pieces are more improvs than compositions, which means you'll find nothing to rival "Nefertiti" here. Aside from that, however, the collection impresses enough otherwise.

November 2007