It takes a lot of vision and confidence for a free jazz label to push itself even further to the fringe. But, that is exactly what Clean Feed has done with its Shhpuma imprint, and Forays is testament to that impulse to continue to explore experimental music beyond free jazz.
Given Jean D.L.'s background as an experimental filmmaker, it is of little surprise that Forays is so cinematic. Its narrative is abstract and somewhat disjointed, but the emotion conveyed in its floating ribbons of sound, its resonant post-rock guitar work and its richly textured field recordings is palpable. Although a few of the pieces have an edge, most are sheened and calming. As the tracks are so short and pensive, the album evokes a selection of snapshots from a somatic, sun-filled daydream. (And, yes, there are tracks called "Still Awake" and "Daydreaming".) Perhaps it is best to think of the album as a collection of vignettes, each of which can briefly stand on its own but all of which are more effective when taken together as part of a greater chronicle of emotions, translated into memory, translated into music.
Although this filmic narrative lends much to the potency of Forays, it is also one of its weaknesses. These tracks have a pleasing density and richness. Apart from the few comparatively darker tracks ("Daydreaming", "Mistral"), the music is quite mellifluous, often on the right side of saccharine and, when they really work, on the verge of real beauty. However, these pieces too often lack development and direction. Even when I start to get into on a theme or get immersed into one of Forays' most affecting moments, the track ends without a satisfying resolution. I might be missing something important in all of this. After several listens, however, Forays still sounds either like a soundtrack whose film would have offered some important visual context and continuity, or twelve dreamy and contemplative but somewhat underrealized statements of wafting, glimmering ambience.
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