Battle Trance — an avant-garde tenor saxophone quartet — can sound like a swarm of stinging insects or a pod of robotic sea creatures, calling to each other through a dystopian fog. Should an ambulance happen to pass, sirens blaring, through the midst of a song, the music might be enhanced rather than disturbed. The group is as much about texture as melody, its compositions crafted to explore sound and the juxtaposition of the four brass instruments. But even in the din and chaos of experimentation, there are moments when the tones and keyed rhythms fall into sync and a melody emerges — only to be deconstructed by brays and blasts and trills. It’s thrilling and jarring, and about as punk rock as four dudes in sports coats playing saxophones can get.
Battle Trance comes to Asheville on Friday, Sept. 9, to perform a benefit concert for the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. The show — directly on the heels of Battle Trance’s appearance at the Hopscotch Music Festival — will be held at BMCM+AC’s 69 Broadway location at 8 p.m. A sliding-scale donation of $10-$30 is suggested.
Seemingly right at home with the Black Mountain College spirit of exploration, the quartet reports that the three movements of the 16-minute Blades of Love, the group’s sophomore album, “were composed by Battle Trance leader Travis Laplante and recorded by the group in a wooden room with soaring ceilings in the Vermont forest, after spending two years of rigorous rehearsals working to perfect the array of extended techniques, both virtuosic and primal, required to bring the challenging piece to life.”
The group’s Bandcamp page continues, “Blade of Love’s central focus is on the physical and spiritual intersection of the saxophone and the human body. The saxophone is one of the few instruments that literally enters the body of the person playing it, and Blade of Love is a medium for this sacred meeting place, with each member of Battle Trance using the saxophone as a vessel for the human spirit.”
Of the second movement of the Blades of Love project, Pitchfork writes, “Pops of the players’ lips, whistles and smacks of air are all pushed around through the saxophones’ metal bodies. Again, this is a setup for a path toward a more traditional sound, which eventually comes in the form of a bracing and soulful theme.”