Guitarist Tim Stine, who hails from Chicago, has a passion for intricate textures and manifests a unique expressiveness that feels exquisitely natural. Upon the release of a couple of recordings in trio, he now puts together an acoustic quartet with new cohorts Nick Mazzarella on alto saxophone, Matt Ulery on bass, and Quin Kirchner on drums.
Exclusively containing originals, Knots marks his debut on the avant-jazz-focused label Clean Feed and kicks in with an extravagant 3/4 piece titled “SH8”. The adhered lines oozed from the acoustic guitar and saxophone take wing, thriving with a contemporary folk tinge and angular jazz quality. They benefit from the astute rhythmic interplay established by Ullery and Kirchner.
Taking into account the integration of space through shifting passages, “Fred Waltzing” follows a quasi-automated routine that distills into sluggish unisons. Kirchner’s brushing is imbued of a fervent passion, while the bandleader combines rhythmic audacity and harmonic dissonance in his playing.
The melodic conductivity of “Knots” gets knotted by stubborn notes that repeat, dragging the rhythm section out of its locomotion. Mazzarella, eloquent and spellbinding while discoursing, produces empathic waves all the way through. If the saxophonist expresses thoughts with freedom and pulse on this one, then on the Violent Femmes-like folk-rock “Trempealeau”, it’s Ulery who has the word. Along with the drummer, he sets sparser, more serene tones on “Quietus” and “Ride Wild Rides”, which don’t really classify as ballads.
After a chattering percussive demonstration on “Gearth”, the album comes to an end with “Kjallstert”, where the incipient understated guitar comping contrasts with the tension of Mazzarella’s solo. This tune serves as a point of collision between indie rock and avant-jazz.
Despite the offbeat sonic frames, Knot follows a methodology that never makes for a disjointed listening. Boasting its own kind of groove, this is an engaging record that will draw you into the group’s atypical sonic world.