To my way of thinking, the music of Sensitive Chaos represents a near-perfect crossover zone between sharp, old-school electronic music and world music-infused New Age. Jim Combs has the chemical formula that lets angular, pinpoint-precise synth lines and curvy, sensuous melodies not just coexist in harmony, but thrive and fuse into a truly unique signature sound. On Amerisynthcana he again teams up with his Seeker After Patterns compatriots, the always-present saxophonist Brian Good, Tony Gerber on electronic wind instrument (EWI), Paul Vunk Jr on percussion, guitars and voice, and Christian Birk on synthesizers. The disc has two solo live performances, along with pieces where Combs edited down versions of solo gig, then presented that template to his cohorts and let them add their own touches. Two pieces are revivals of tracks originally recorded in the 80s. The result is what I feel is the best Sensitive Chaos release so far. Right out of the gates, Combs hits the listener with a big dose of feel-good. “To Sleep, To Dream” opens with a plucky, harpsichord sound, throw in some carnival-music spirals, and Good finishes off the blend with sweet, smooth-jazz sax. There’s a great shift in tempo toward the end of the track that just ups the happy. “Contemplation of One’s Place in the Universe” is a full-ensemble, Berlin School piece that keeps the pace going. Combs’ sequencer constructs lead the way, deeply intertwined. Gerber’s breathy EWI coils, curls and floats. On the title track, Vnuk’s percussion work drives us forward as Combs and Good dance around the back. This track builds and builds, eventually blossoming into choral pads as Good takes the front. On the softer side of things, Combs floats quietly through the dreamy washes of his solo live piece “August Rains, Were Those Tears?” He makes great use of some rich bass sounds to add a little punch in spots, and rain-spatter sounds late in the track add theme and texture. “Floating,” one of the older pieces, was recorded on an alphaSyntauri synth. This is a classic, deceptively simple ambient piece, gritted up slightly with an electronic hum that rises and falls. The flow, track to track, is impeccable, with Combs guiding his listeners through energetic passages, then easing them into a quiet space before coming back around. Everything makes sense in its place, and the overall sensation, by disc’s end, is that you just had a really good time. (Even with the oddly growling, almost-out-of-place-but-not-quite, two-minute “Android Cat Sleeps in the Sun.”) Sensitive Chaos continues to get better with every disc. There’s a good reason Amerisynthecana has already picked up a lot of radio play on some of the major genre outlets. Catch it for yourself.
Available from the Sensitive Chaos web site.