Once Yvette Janine Jackson’s “Test Flight No. 1” blasts off, there’s a mix of excitement and apprehension that’s impossible to dislodge. As a continuation of her masterpiece, “Destination Freedom,” the narrative is fraught, yet hopeful; the sonic passages offering succor in place of malice. Inspired by early 20th-century radio plays, theatrical sound design, and a deep sense of painting strange and alluring sonic portraits with unexpected elements and angles, “Test Flight No. 1” is an extraordinary noir patchwork.
Electronic drones spark to life, riding a perfect wave that’s protecting the small pocket beneath the crest. Sizzling hiss looks for cracks to exploit, but the rush of sound keeps rolling forward, pushing those crackling tendrils back underground. Jackson shows listeners the other side, too, with hollowed-out, subterranean howls weighed down with cavernous disappointment. So much of this piece is sonically and emotionally dense to the point of feeling crushed. By pushing these limits, she opens new pathways.
Jackson laces “Test Flight No. 1” with elements of mystery and charm, thriller-infused sax passages, and pristine shards of synthetic blips combine in surprising ways. She continues evolving the aural palette, returning to previous elements, like the saxophone, but twists them with new approaches. Marching rhythms cut through radio static as snippets of tonal whirr tries breaking through the divide to create open, welcoming spaces. It’s mesmerizing. Jackson throws dart after dart, building an enervating study of close-knit ecosystems and how their landscapes continue evolving.
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