Mark Esakoff and Michael Whipple are the Ventura, CA, duo Chasm. They’ve known each other since 1987, and have been releasing albums since 1995. Wood, Wind and Skin is their fifth release.
Chasm looks to “connect primitive acoustic textures with modern musical structures.” They use many different instruments on Wood, Wind and Skin to create those textures. Multi-instrumentalist Whipple contributes performances on flute, keyboards, drum kit and a wide assortment of percussion instruments. Esakoff handles the guitars, in various shapes and sizes, ranging from nylon string acoustics to distorted electrics.
The result is a delightful thirteen-song set. Twelve of the tracks are instrumentals with a world jazz flair; the final cut is an upbeat pop vocal number.
The moniker “world jazz” can be applied to a wide range of music; in Chasm’s case their world jazz is accessible, rhythmic and melodic. They employ jazz harmonies and voicings, but it’s never pretentious--it merely adds a dollop of spice. Similarly, there are lots of different instruments here, but there are no gratuitous didgeridoo jams or vuvuzela solos: the instruments selected support the music. Chasm does a fine job making it all work.
Each of the thirteen tracks offers different sonic treats and emotion. “Inner Jungle” feels like we’re in the jungle; the cold piano in “Arctic Crossing” fits the song title well. “Praying for Rain” is a haunting track with fingerpicked guitar, yearning flute and percussion that pans across your ears.
“Strange Currents” offers a Latin jazz feel, and finds Esakoff digging into his effects bag with flangers on his electric guitar and a piano part draped in effects. “Mountains” and “The Memory Box” use a similar Latin-flavored feel, with sparkling, modern piano solos--check out the dextrous work on “The Memory Box” in particular.
“Sideways Sunshine” and “Agua Blanca” are folk-influenced pop numbers displaying some fine drum-kit work by Whipple. My favorite track, though, was “Element People.” It’s a rock song with electric guitars, bass, distorted flute and a horn section. Chasm clearly lets it rip here, production-wise, and it’s terrific fun.
Wood, Wind and Skin is a tasty treat for your ears. Chasm have assembled a wonderful collection of sounds into well-crafted pieces of music. World music fans will love it. If world music isn’t your regular jam, this is a great entry point. Enjoy!
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