Find Letter X

Kate Gentile

Track List

iridian alphabet - pulse capsule
iridian alphabet - laugh magic
iridian alphabet - find letter X
iridian alphabet - subsurface
iridian alphabet - recursive access
iridian alphabet - the new basics
iridian alphabet - in casks
iridian alphabet - ore whorls
iridian alphabet - stelliform lamellae
iridian alphabet - prismatoid
iridian alphabet - contrarianism
iridian alphabet - prescience
iridian alphabet - Erinome
iridian alphabet - the 5th clone
iridian alphabet - invisible wolves
senseless - r.a.t.b.o.t.B
senseless - raze
senseless - nine fog
senseless - garbage juice
senseless - zisroas
senseless - blanket
senseless - zislupme tnilyive tsoam ath
senseless - clovd 8
senseless - smother
senseless - importunate babble
senseless - four-bladed
senseless - dissolution
senseless - offing
senseless - Jupiter vs. the Sun
the cosmic brain - psychoradiant
the cosmic brain - clarion fluorescent
the cosmic brain - Q quiet
the cosmic brain - eternal lapse
the cosmic brain - bask
the cosmic brain - effulgence
the cosmic brain - spectrescope
the cosmic brain - quantum exits
the cosmic brain - epitome
the cosmic brain - open epoch
the cosmic brain - synaptic blazes
the cosmic brain - supergiant incineration

Find Letter X is the eponymously-named release from the long-running Brooklyn-based band led by drummer/composer Kate Gentilefeaturing saxophonist Jeremy Viner, pianist Matt Mitchell, and bassist Kim Cass. This audacious new work spans three densely packed volumes brimming with inventive concepts and dramatic arcs. Each disc contains a distinct thematic identity while seamlessly contributing to a larger narrative trajectory. Meticulously constructed and utterly intentional, Find Letter X is a wide-ranging exploration of diverse sonics and contrasting forms; a vibrant feedback loop of virtuosic improvisational and compositional ingenuity entirely unified by Gentile’s singular musical aesthetic.

Gentile has been working in the Brooklyn creative music scene since 2011 creating music that values the relationships between substantive, elevated composition and unfettered improvisation. Her debut album, Mannequins, was named one of the best releases of 2017 by the New York Times, who called it “Searing… full of stuttering rhythms and teetering intervallic jumps; an array of textures disorient you even as they deepen your listening.” Her 2021 release Snark Horse (Pi 2021) – co-led with Matt Mitchell – was a gargantuan six-volume set that delved into unbridled improvisation propelled by small nuggets of their dense compositional material. In addition to Snark Horse, she plays in various aggregations with Matt Mitchell, including on his projects Phalanx Ambassadors (Pi 2019) and A Pouting Grimace (Pi 2017) and has also worked with the likes of Michaël Attias, Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Cloud Becomes Your Hand, Steve Coleman, Dave Douglas, Marty Ehrlich, Miles Okazaki, God Is My Co-Pilot, Helado Negro, Chris Speed, Chris Tordini, Anna Webber, and John Zorn. Her recent album b i o m e i.i (Obliquity 2023) – a 13-movement work commissioned and performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) – was called “unerringly fascinating and adventurous” by Popmatters.

The idea of a tripartite album structure took root around the time of the recording of Mannequins, which coincided with the first airing of David Lynch’s new Twin Peaks series. Gentile envisioned an album that would similarly unfold with an abstract narrative arc filled with twisted logic rich with motifs and symbolism. Compositional ideas would find counterparts across the volumes, but each disc would reveal its own character.

Iridian Alphabet (disc 1) evokes the magic hour of the night; an acute aliveness; and the mystery of the inexplicable. A thousand compositional ideas dart around like creatures mischievously playing and reveling in the night air, snarling and romping. As the disc nears the end, foreboding energy emerges, foreshadowing imminent developments.

Senselessness (disc 2) opens the door to a parallel universe with unbridled fury; a brutal, unrelenting rampage. The three-part cryptic arc of “…va zisroas,” “blankeye,” and “zislupme tnilyive tsoam ath…” moves from deep

pathos to numbness to violence, and leads to the devastating, inevitable reckoning of “clovd 8.” After “smother,” a gradual shift occurs throughout the last stretch of the disc; an embryonic glint in the distance signaling something new beginning to happen.

The Cosmic Brain (disc 3) opens with bright, searing rays, mixing and stirring into a pool of rich, resonant harmonies. The music moves through various energies of light; such as the reflection and glowing stillness of “eternal lapse” through “effulgence.” From “epitome” to the end, the music begins to levitate and continues upward with blinding effervescence, culminating in the transcendent brilliance of “synaptic blazes.”

At a closer level, the core compositions contain multiple strands of conceptual logic. Compositions often pair specific rhythmic, harmonic, and form ideas, such as harmonies based on saxophone multiphonics paired with an unusual pattern of tempo modulations, ones that follow a fixed length form of 10 cycles of escalating speed, or multi-octave scales paired with interlinked polyrhythms with an adaptable order and a fractal-inspired form structure. There are phrases of different lengths that cycle against each other, rhythms sourced from secret lyrics, laughter-derived cadences converging with harmonies derived from rhythms and rhythms derived from harmony, and countless other inventive notions. Patterns and enigmas are everywhere. Pieces are connected via manipulated harmonic and rhythmic material, or sometimes by more recognizable themes. Nothing feels predictable, and nothing exists solely for complexity’s sake: each minute rhythmic and harmonic manipulation is intended to affect the feel of the piece and the resulting improvisations in perceptible ways. Every anomaly is intentional and serves a purpose.

None of this would be possible without musicians staunchly dedicated to helping realize Gentile’s vision. The sheer quantity of musical information is immense, so an unstinting attention to detail is a basic requirement. But to play it with a sense of groove, authority, and free-wheeling improvisation within the music’s daunting challenges requires a rare breed of next-level musicianship. Matt Mitchell is, of course, no stranger to this type of music making. His critically-acclaimed releases as a leader – five of them for Pi Recordings – revel in their commitment to push against musical limitations. Jeremy Viner is a first-call woodwind player known for his ability to execute the most challenging material with the likes of Mitchell, John Hollenbeck, Steve Lehman, Anna Webber, Tyshawn Sorey, the saxophone quartet Battle Trance, and many others. Kim Cass – who works often with Mitchell along with saxophonist Noah Preminger and vibraphonist Patricia Brennan – is a singular bassist, one who internalizes complex polyrhythms and performs them on his instrument with an unparalleled acuity.

Gentile is filtering many influences through her singular perspective: the jazz tradition’s improvisational and inventive essence; the chaos and intensity of brutal death metal and brutal prog; the intricacies of ‘new music’, the magic and often hyper-tactile sense of electronic and noise music, and the grit of and looseness of creative rock and punk. Even a blues influence is perceptible in many tracks, though heavily refracted through Gentile’s distinctive lens. Find Letter X thrives in a sweet spot in the middle of the spectrum of tonality to atonality, where unconventional harmonies are interwoven with compelling melodies using masterful voice leading, and the compositions are further elevated by rhythmic ingenuity. It’s an offering, an invitation to listeners, other musicians, and musical forebears: what if we did this?