Bent Arcana


I’ve mentioned this one a couple of times pre-release, but this live document from John Dwyer’s latest jazz run is well worth digging deeper. Dwyer has been working with a rotating cast of players to scratch at psychedelic jazz itches and it’s shaping up to become an excellent well of material for fans to tumble down. From the moment the first Bent Arcana release came out the outfit begged to be in a live setting, but that first release landed in August of 2020, hardly a time for gathered transcendence. As things settled into as normal a live environment as possible a bit later on, the band was assembled for a European run. The studio setup remains malleable, but for its first time on stage Dwyer nabbed Ryan Sawyer, Tom Dolas, Peter Kerlin, Andrew Renteria, and Jocelyn Soubiran for the lineup. The players decided on a warm-up to the EU date and picked hometown hollow Zebulon to debut the band. Thankfully, the band’s sound tech Liza Boldyreva had the foresight to start the tapes on this one as well.

Captured that night by Bolyreva, the set finds the band compact but focused, letting their studio compositions wander into cosmic territory then snapping back into a wracked rhythm stomp that shakes the speakers with a gnashed ferocity. The material from the set mostly pulls from the S/T Bent Arcana LP and Moon Drenched. While I’d have loved the band to rip into a bit of material from Witch Egg as well, there’s not a moment wasted over the course of two platters here. They stretch the already ecstatic “Misanthrope Gets Lunch” and “The War Clock” into writhing masses of simmer and squelch before taking an almost 20-minute approach on “Psychic Liberation” that burns what breath remains in the listener with an acetylene intensity. I’m hoping this may be just the beginning of a live documentation of the band, but for now this enters into their catalog as an essential piece of their constantly shifting puzzle.

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