Knest — the trio of multi-instrumentalists Thor Harris, Randall Holt, and Jonathan Horne — say they did not make a jazz album. This is to a certain degree true– the songs on their debut album, Honorary Bachelors of Arts, were freely improvised in a one-day recording session; they don’t have heads or definitive solos. Yet somehow, these three very talented musicians found structure in their improvisation and found it quickly. This isn’t an ambling, formless experimental album dripping with pretension. These are real Austin musicians who hold their own in numerous bands, as one tends to do in Austin. Thor Harris is the percussionist for Swans. Jonathan Horne is a wacko guitarist in constant demand, most recently noted here at Nextbop for his work with The Young Mothers (though it’s always cool to run into the dude). Randall Holt plays a mean cello. So while these guys may say they aren’t playing jazz, they’re certainly playing interesting music in the moment that’s pretty damn close.
Thus, if these guys aren’t playing jazz, there must be some way to nail down what they’re doing. How can one describe the energy in the room at Halversonics Recording in Austin, Texas, with production from Rob Halverson? How do these songs so tightly coil from seeming nothingness and yet find so solid a vibe. “Twice Try Finding the Nothing Island While We Find it Lost” sounds like a Philip Glass composition; “Dust Devil Shindig” sounds like a Nels Cline song fresh from a Wilco session. “Moving to Keep Us Whole” keeps a solid pace and feels like a true centerpiece, even if that may not be its intended goal in an album with few true intentions.
Truly, this album sounds great. It’s very good instrumental music that the peculiarity and brilliance of Austin can engender. Some months ago, Horne told me about this project and the weirdness that would transpire from it. It sounded like an exciting notion and one to look forward to, but hearing it now is greater than anything I was imagining– it’s an experimental music album from real professionals who know from their mere energy how to make music that’s a real joy to hear.
This is the first release by Self Sabotage Records (SS-01), Austin TX.
A very limited-release LP edition coming out in the future.
released October 23, 2015
Thor Harris: clarinets, glockenspiel, marimba, organ, piano, shakers, trapset, vibraphone
Randall Holt: cello, contrabass, piano
Jonathan Horne: guitars, saxophones (tenor & soprano)
recorded, mixed & produced by Rob Halverson at Halversonics Recording, Austin TX (www.halversonics.com)
photography by Renate Winter
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.