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  • Nathan Yoder

Recommended Listening: Peace Flag Ensemble - Noteland

Peace Flag Ensemble's Noteland wins our just-now-created "album cover of the year (so far)" award. Maybe it's the psychedelic color palette with tiny, curious details in gold. Or instead, it might be the creepy LYSFLATH hands groping skyward, in front of a sepia tone face fading over the horizon. There's a lot of separate parts to take in here, much like the actual music produced by the Saskatchewan jazz collective. Noteland is an album that is a collage in both appearance and sound - layers of dreamy improvisation resulting in a beautiful finished product.

Though there is no real overlap between Peace Flag Ensemble and North Americans' chosen instruments, there exists a compositional connection. Both groups begin with base melodies and spiral outward from there. These constructions feel rooted in something premeditated, but members then provide individual flare and play off one other. In the Ensemble, Jon Neher's improvised piano and Travis Packer's bass bring structure, while Dalton Lam's trumpet and Paul Gutheil's saxophone layer texture. Michael Scott Dawson, who was featured on this site last year, contributes electronics, field recordings, guitar, and production.

The Ensemble - photo provided by label.

Peace Flag Ensemble's music may be considered experimental free jazz, but its edges are rounded and smooth, rather than sharp. Songs sparkle with a sunny warmth, pastoral in mood and playful in delivery. Presentism is a pretty perfect encapsulation of the group's sound, so make sure to check out the video below. But album closer Marginalia is another favorite, a solo piano seeing us out.

Noteland is to be released on June 18th through We Are Busy Bodies, and you can find a streaming + purchase link here. It's arriving just in time for lazy summer evenings, so give it a listen here in a couple of week.


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