Battle Trance

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Watch & Listen


Battle Trance is Travis Laplante, Matthew Nelson, Jeremy Viner, and Patrick Breiner.

Their debut full-length album, Palace of Wind, has been called "an achievement not just for the saxophone, but for avant-garde composition as a whole" (PopMatters) and a "beauteous and masterful deception unlike anything else" (New Firmament). Amongst its many accolades, the album has been lauded as "mesmerizing" by the New York Times, an "engulfing sonic swam" by Live Eye TV, and "breathtaking" by FMDUST

Palace of Wind is a piece that not only transcends genres, but also transcends time and space. Existing in the cracks between contemporary classical music, avant-garde jazz, black metal, ambient, and world music, Palace of Wind is an album-length composition that pushes the four saxophonists to the limit, shedding new light on the saxophone as an ensemble instrument. The players use circular breathing to build continuous, hypnotic waves of sound; multiphonics layer to create intricate textures that seem to come from an ancient time; and blisteringly fast lines seem to liquefy into each other. Unorthodox articulations and unusual fingerings are also part of the vast sonic vocabulary that the members of Battle Trance have painstakingly mastered. However, Palace of Wind isn't merely concerned with demonstrating the virtuosity of the ensemble, nor with impressing or entertaining the listener. Instead, it is meant to be a portal of resonance where there is no separation between the listener and the sound.

Since many of the techniques used in the piece are nearly impossible to notate in traditional form, Palace of Wind was transmitted via the oral tradition. The rehearsals were much like martial arts training: intricate sounds were rigorously copied and repeated by the ensemble members until they perfected the techniques. Many hours were spent building the sheer strength required to sustain continuous circular breathing for extended periods. Likewise, a steady focus on physicality was required to repeat rapid note patterns for long periods without sacrificing speed. Palace of Wind is such a demanding composition that there is a high risk of physically burning out before the piece concludes, as once it begins there is no opportunity for rest or even a quick drink of water. There was also extensive training in dissolving the distinct individual identities of the players into the greater collective sound: The band did various long-tone exercises, similar to group meditation, the purpose being to blend together into one sound, so that the origin of the collective sound's components is completely impossible to discern - even by the members of the ensemble.

Palace of Wind does embrace both the cerebral nature of composition and the visceral act of performance, but immediately locates itself, the musicians and the audience in a purely spiritual space. It is a new kind of music and therefore modern, and yet it's absolutely primordial, the transformative act of human beings blowing air through tubes and producing something timeless. Listen - really listen - and be transformed.