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CD Review: Tim Stine Trio “Fresh Demons”

By Hrayr Attarian

Tim Stine Trio Fresh Demons

Tim Stine – Acoustic guitar

Anton Hatwich – Acoustic bass

Frank Rosaly – Drums

On the gripping Fresh Demons, his third release as a leader, Chicago guitarist Tim Stine returns to the sparse trio format of his debut. Joining Stine are two like-minded artists: the virtuosic bassist Anton Hatwich and the idiosyncratic drummer Frank Rosaly. Together, these three artists are perfectly suited for interpreting the eight, relatively brief, Stine originals. Intricately improvised, the music is sometimes angsty and always thought provoking.

The tense and contemplative “882233” is representative of the recording’s overall unconventional structure. It starts off as a crystalline, spontaneous duet between Stine and Hatwich while Rosaly’s rumbling kit colors the ambience with dark hues. As the strings fade into the background, Rosaly’s thunderous solo evolves into a roaring sonic wave that abruptly concludes his statement—and the tune—with an exhilarating crash.

Similarly dramatic is the solemn “Object.” The ensemble, in this instance, utilizes silent pauses to a mesmerizing effect—especially when mixed with their sparse, intersecting phrases. Stine’s almost baroque guitar lines echo against Hatwich’s lyrical and pensive bass and Rosaly’s chimes, tolls, and cymbal crashes. Gradually, Stine’s extemporization weaves a delightfully dissonant and fiery melody that shimmers ominously in the enveloping quietude.

A brighter atmosphere prevails on some of the tracks, like the cinematic “Watched Trains.” Stine’s acerbic guitar twangs at times with a folkish touch, while Rosaly’s percolating beats and Hatwich’s thumping cadence give the piece an esoteric feel that culminates in Rosaly’s captivatingly agile, polyrhythmic soliloquy.

Stine allows his bandmates plenty of room to explore new ideas within the framework of his compositions. The somber “FADS,” for instance, opens with Hatwich’s reverberating single notes that, together with Rosaly’s percussive sound effects, build a haunting and angular performance. The group’s organic and resonant exchanges close the disc on an urgent and restive tone.

Fresh Demons is stimulating and adventurous—both conceptually as well as in its delivery. Made up of limpid, jagged poetic nuggets, the album is melancholic and expectant with an edgy lyricism running through it. Once again, Stine has produced a work that is unmistakably his own, albeit one that is meant for open-minded listeners.

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