The formula that creates the distinct sound of Sensitive Chaos has not changed drastically throughout Jim Combs’ musical career. Rather, it has continued to deepen and evolve through added players and a careful, constantly adjusted balance between snappy electronics and warm acoustics. March of the Timeshifters is front-loaded with talent: Brian Good (as always) on sax and electronic wind instrument (EWI); Josie Quick on violin; Gregg Hurley and Tony Gerber on guitars, with Gerber also contributing EWI; Paul Vnuk Jr on synth and percusssion; and Christian Birk on synth. With those ingredients, you can only expect the outcome to be delicious, and it is. I have always enjoyed the sense of play that runs through any Sensitive Chaos release. It always sounds like Combs and a few friends have gotten together for a good musical time and we get to sit in on it. Much of that feel is carried in Combs’ own light and angular synth work. He favors chime-like tones and squishy notes with a nice analog bounce to them. As they carve their right-angle patterns, they contrast perfectly with the smoother arcs of the other instruments. Quick shines on “Gypsy Moth Dance,” slipping through Combs’ spattering synth droplets. She takes the front mid-track, and delivers on the title’s promise with fire, flair, and drama. She lays down more beauty on “Cream and Variations,” whipping upward-curling spirals into the air like laughter. As always, Good’s sax winds like a silk ribbon through the proceedings. Listen to the way “The Romance of Train Travel” builds—rising up out an almost-ambient hush, each player dovetailing into place to deepen the sound. The subtle chugging is a nice touch that carries throughout. When Good rolls in and Quick starts playing off him, it’s bound to make you smile. In my head I know that each person may have laid down their sections for this piece at different times, but the vibe of thing lets me imagine that everyone’s gathered at the studio to jam and this is what comes out. It has that much of an honest, of-the-moment sense to it. A highlight of the release. Deep immersion comes courtesy of the Floyd-like and magnificently titled “The Heliosphere Is A Harsh Mistress.” Vnuk lays down Nick Mason drum lines over a dreamy wash of synth and EWI. Between this and the quiet closer, “Voyager Surfs the Interstellar Seas,” we leave the uptempo world behind and just coast into the shiny void.
I admit, quite unabashedly, that I make happy sounds when a new Sensitive Chaos release finds my mailbox. March of the Timeshifters is Jim Combs and company at the top of their game. The album is beautiful from start to finish, pulls every gorgeous thing it can out of what is clearly a near-magical chemistry between players, and is loaded with all kinds of feel-good moments. Put it on, turn it up, let it ride. Sensitive Chaos at its best.
Available at the Sensitive Chaos web site.