HMS – Resolution

Artist: HMS
Title: Resolution
Label: Pandafuzz, USA
Details: DL. 5 tracks, 39 minutes. Free download from
www.pandafuzz.com

HMS is Joe Houpert, Nathan McLaughlin and Eric Steiger. Thankfully, taking the band’s name from the initials of their surnames is the only thing they have in common with ELP. McLaughlin is the head honcho of netlabel Pandafuzz and, along with Houpert, records as Loud and Sad. The HMS project came about through an improv session at Steiger’s studio in Baltimore one November night last year.

I don’t know if the HMS Resolution tag is a deliberate nod to the eleven ships of the Royal Navy given that name since 1654. The most recent was the first of the Resolution class nuclear subs that were equipped with Polaris nuclear missiles. There is a definite sub-aquatic feel to a couple of the tracks – the brooding Amphion in particular.

Guitar improv involving more than one guitarist can often degenerate into an ego battle rather than something where the players are listening and responding to each other. In this case, there almost seems to be a battle to see who can be the most self-effacing, particularly on the spare and still Ithuriel that fades into a bass murmur that barely registers. There are moments where a crushing surge of volume seems inevitable, but it never comes. The nearest thing to that is the twelve minute opener Ockham (and that’s not very near). Nevertheless, this is one of the most enjoyable sets of group improv that I’ve heard in some time.

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