RAIC “Symbiosis vol. 1” C47 (Lurker Bias)

“Symbiosis vol. 1” by the Richmond Avant Improv Collective (RAIC) is really a feat. Now, before I get into it, full disclosure: I am a huge fan of what RAIC does. So I’m not exactly an unbiased party coming into this. But this release speaks for itself and really displays a sort of musical branching out for RAIC that I’m very happy to hear.

The material for this release came about after a day-long recording session back in December of 2017. RAIC went into the studio with Ceremonial Scissors, a Richmond-based “avant trash” band to record a single improvisational piece. The idea was to record something to send to a few percussionists in Italy who they were planning on collaborating with. However, what was supposed to be a quick studio session turned into a day-long affair and, in addition to the track for Italian percussionists Paolo Sanna and Giancomo Salis, the group wound up with about 90 minutes of recorded material that was just too good not to use. Much of that material will be released as 2 different upcoming albums, and the rest of it composes Symbiosis (which will have a second volume coming out via Lurker Bias in the near future).

Now, I usually don’t like to write or read track-by-track reviews, but I feel like I need to talk about individual tracks for this one because there is so much range on this album. The opening track, “Reciprocal Altruism,” is a sometimes eerie, sometimes contemplative journey. Laden with washed out guitar, miscellaneous percussion, piano, and amplified twiddlings of unknown origin, this track really carries the listener through a range of worlds, all while still maintaining a low key, meditative aura. Though less melodic than much of RAIC’s improvising, this track showcases just how well this ensemble listens to one another, the most crucial aspect of good improvisation.

The second track, “Endosymbiosis,” comes in with swirling and pulsing electronics that last the duration of the song, accompanied here and there by oddball piano, sometimes manipulated. This track showcases the noisier side of RAIC. In fact, according to RAIC member Sam Goff, Symbiosis is the closest to a noise album that RAIC will get. If you’re at all familiar with this group, you’ll know that their music runs an enormous gamut of styles. From jazz to ambient to post-rock to noise to electroacoustic and everything in between, RAIC is definitely not afraid to dip their toes into new musical water. (In fact, I have it on good authority that some of their upcoming material will feature straight-up country and funk pieces.)

“Ectosymbiosis” follows, continuing the electronic atmosphere from the previous track for a while before shifting to a percussion-heavy mix, complete with sparse but high-energy vocals. My favorite track on this release though is the closer, “Antagonistic Symbiosis.” This is an epic, 17-minute long ride through a throbbing sound soup. Electronics that ebb and flow, tom-heavy driving percussion, the blathering of a lone bugle, it’s all here. RAIC tends to gravitate toward longer pieces anyway, so they are right at home with this marathon of a track.

If you’re a fan of any sort of vaguely experimental music, or jazz, or ambient, or post-rock, or any other style you can think of really, so long as it’s carried out in a roughly improvisational manner, you need to check out RAIC. Samuel Goff, Abdul Hakim-Bilal, Erik Schroeder, Zoe Olivia-Kinney and Laura Marina are all extremely talented musicians, as are the folks in Ceremonial Scissors (which Laura is also a part of, along with Brendan Ginsburg and Zoe Brzezinski). True masters of their craft, these are artists who can really transport the listener/audience in ways I have seldom seen before. And all without overt gimmicks or political/social messages. They revel in sound and are adept at using it as a tool.



--James Searfoss