The second release from Argentinian avant-garde jazz sextet Sales de Baño is Horror Vacui, an intriguing live performance. The ensemble is led by bassist and composer Carlos Quebrada, and also features flute, trumpet, keyboard, guitar, and drums. They definitely play “outside” a lot, but what I appreciate here is that it’s often difficult to tell what is composed and what is improvised. Quebrada has done an excellent job, at times approaching a sophisticated chamber music sound and at others harsh avant-noise.
At first, it may seem that the playing here is somewhat aimless in the way that avant-garde music can tend to be. But it’s not boring, even when it gets really out there. After repeated listens, the form and flow of the pieces begin to come into focus, allowing you to appreciate different facets of this performance each time you return to it. All of this, together with the fact that I never want to turn it off at any point, indicates the success of this avant-garde endeavor.
The arrangements are as layered as they can be, and you’ll struggle to identify the point where certain tracks transitioned from weird minimalism to an intense locked-in groove, or vice-versa. The musicians are not only individually great, but maintain an effective chemistry with each other throughout the disc’s various twists and turns. The final track features some additional guest brass players that add a whole new dimension to their already rich and intricate expressions.
Admittedly, Sales de Baño aren’t doing anything unprecedented here. But what they do, they do quite well. I find this album a captivating listen, and would recommend this particular variety of bath salts for human consumption.