Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”, and in this case the journey started nearly fifteen years ago when drummer and composer Caleb Dolister wanted to find a way of improving his writing. When he started composing this album, he allowed himself to explore sonic ranges with no limits on the instruments to be used, and then all he had to do was to go to every musician and record their parts. The journey took a decade, combining flights and long car rides: he survived a major car accident (as did his drums and the hard drives containing all the work) but at long last he has finished mixing it and pulling it all together.
That this sounds as if all the musicians were in the room at the same time, not spread out over countless sessions and thousands of miles, is a real testament to the compositional and organisational skills of Dolister. While jazz is an important element of the music, it is also modern orchestral, post rock and progressive rock, and he isn’t afraid of mixing things up. For example, on “081205 [the one that lost their way]” there is riffing guitar, but while there is also lead electric guitar and plenty of horns also making their presence felt, the solo over the top is by a harp! There is a real mix of solidity and fragility coming together, distortion combining with clean sounds, and Dolister also understands there are times when his contribution is not to play at all, and why not use a cello instead of a bass guitar? The press release states this is for fans of the likes of avant-progressive and post-jazz and rock music like Jaga Jazzist, Mike Oldfield, Electric Masada, Steve Tibbetts, Tortoise, and Cinematic Orchestra and while I won’t disagree with that, I feel this instrumental album has even more breadth than even those bands. It is wide and all-encompassing and is another release which cannot be fully appreciated even on a few listens as it does take time to burn into the psyche.
Yet for all its experimentation this is something that is incredibly easy to listen to, and while it is different it is also quite familiar in that it uses many standard constructs, just bringing them together in a somewhat unusual manner. Due to the way he records, there have not been many releases in his Thumbprint series, with an album in 2008 and an EP in 2015, but Caleb is also busy in many different areas and he has been involved in more than 40 albums so far. Overall, this is an interesting album and one which definitely repays repeated listening on headphones.
8/10 | Kev Rowland