A few years ago, improvisors Zeena Parkins, Mette Rasmussen, and Ryan Sawyer discovered a new sonic language and named it Glass Triangle. An energetic blast of amplified harp, gale-force saxophone, and tumbling percussion, their debut recording was as brash as it was inventive. The trio is back, this time leveraging Glass Triangle as the name of their collective prismatic collaboration. This is what they’re calling the new geometry they’ve created, and they’ve intertwined the concept throughout their work. Such a structure, created by sculptor Josiah McElheny, adorned the cover of their debut, and Blue and Sun-lights references a film project by McElheny and Jeff Preiss, in which the glass sculptures create hallucinogenic visions. A triangular prism, a relatively simple geometric shape, throws off a wildly beautiful spectrum of color when white light passes through one of its facets. Likewise, seemingly endless aural possibilities are revealed when Parkins, Rasmussen, and Sawyer harness the power of string, horn, and skin.
While the trio’s eponymous debut was born in a furnace, full of fire and raw power, Blue and Sun-lights is at times pensive and at other times downright haunting.
Parkins’ harp can emit a plethora of tones – from mournful wails to amusing spring-like boings to completely alien screeches. Similarly, Rasmussen wields the entirety of the saxophone’s vocabulary to release Ayler-esque screams, guttural churning, and all manner of noises in between. Sawyer is the glue holding it all together, the base of the prism. His energy can be yielding when the other two are exploring strange atmospheres, and it can be forthcoming in order to prod them into a full-on sparring session. Despite all this talk about light and geometry, the album is bookended by pieces that reference the feeling of being grounded, “Earth O” and “Earth OO.”
In a sense, the trio is making sure to include a sense of tactility to the proceedings. Light and sound are two phenomena that we can experience but can’t hold in our hands. Glass Triangle are attempting to correct this through their glorious synaesthesia. I believe that with Blue and Sun-lights, they’ve succeeded.