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Odd Circus - Arch Nova (self-released)

4 August 2021

For its second EP, Orlando trio Odd Circus is eager to prove that free improvisation isn’t just the province of jazz musicians. Though ostensibly telling a post-apocalyptic tale of someone wandering the wasteland while malevolent forces seek his demise, Arch Nova really narrates how saxophonist Graham Robertson, bassist Crews Carter and drummer Partin Whitaker find the same musical wavelength. Pulling in elements of psychedelia, progressive rock, doom, noise rock and anything else that strikes the musicians’ fancy, each cut is based on improvised tunes. On “Maniac,” Carter thrums a one-note bassline like a boogie musician gone to seed, while Robertson squeals above and Whitaker keeps it all together. “Wasteland” dials back the chaos, but not the menace, as Whitaker roils, Carter thuds and Robertson paints with harmonized colors that imply madness. Adrenalin spikes the brief “Hostiles,” which lives up to its name with a grinding rhythm and freeform horn work, before evening out for the expansive, dynamic title track, in which our protagonist comes to rest on a combination of lush psychetronica and heavy rock drive. Does he find sanctuary at the Arch Nova refuge, or meet an ugly end at its doorstep? That’s up to the listener to decide, but regardless of our hero’s fate, Odd Circus’ music remains compelling.