‘Nails’ is the second album from Predicate; a band led by Alex Ward (guitar), and featuring Tim Hill (alto, baritone, and sopranino sax), Mark Sanders (drums), and Dominic Lash (double bass).
The first piece launches straight into Ward’s contorted riffing, a dense thicket of sharp needle points, molten string bending eruptions, and thrashing violence; Sanders and Lash ably bracket this in a shifting kaleidoscope of rhythm, restless and endlessly fidgeting. Hill’s sax comes to the fore halfway with a babble of heated growling; a no-wave calamity swell building, cresting, and dissipating behind him. Composed by Ward, this is fiercely complex stuff: a drum solo becomes a stretching and condensing waveform, concertinaing erratically, conjuring a tumult of noise or a pointillist atomism at intervals. It closes reflectively with a sighing exhalation, its rattling structure expiring in heat-death.
The remainder of the album is no less interesting. ‘Pall’ finds Hill’s mercurial sax playing leading a weary band; the guitar complaining and rhythm section making progress in tired lunges, dragging exhausted blistered feet. ‘Traipse’ is sparse and exploratory, a sense of avenues being wandered in unhurried fashion, possibilities tested; at eight minutes it becomes becomes a fascinating rainfall of percussive pings and mossy bass manipulation. ‘Bricks 1’ is the first of a pair of pieces co-composed with the rest of the band; the contributions of all are isolated, striking from four separate corners, making darting grabs for a shared centre, clashing over some confused middle point occasionally and then retreating wounded into silence or insular noise making. ‘Bricks 2’ is more aggressive: great lowing guitar drones, strafing drums traversing the sound-field, squalling sax, bowed bass rumble; this all recedes eventually into an uneasy truce, thick with unresolved amity, steadily boiling back into action. ‘Toggle’ is a deceptively simple and short jazz-rocker that explodes into spinning freak-outs at frequent points.
It is a credit to the compositional chops employed here that music like this retains the spontaneity of improv while being pre-written, still allowing so much room for winding speculative questing.