Daniel Carter, Tobias Wilner, Djibril Toure, Federico Ughi - New York United

Label: 577 Records, 2019

Personnel – Daniel Carter: alto and tenor saxophones, flute, trumpet; Tobias Wilner: synth, beats and electronics; Djibril Toure: bass; Federico Ughi: drums.

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New York United is an atmospheric, electronic-charged avant-garde quartet composed of Daniel Carter on woodwinds, Tobias Wilner on synth and electronics, Djibril Toure on bass, and Federico Ughi on drums. Despite prior collaborations, this record marks the studio debut of the band.

They take us on an underground tour that starts in downtown Manhattan, goes up to Harlem, and finishes in Brooklyn. A nearly 16-minute bonus track joins the other four, where music is made in the spur of the moment with no rehearsals or preconceived ideas.

Flute, synth, and electronic manipulations describe “Canal Street” in the first instance, until tenacious hi-hat accents, a complement of the magnetic drumbeat, starts to invade the neighborhood populated by Carter’s trumpet rambles.

This same trumpet is transferred to “125th Street”, a noir-ish electro-acoustic rendering of the Harlem with a sort of experimental trance in the mix. The heavy synth and muted trumpet link brooding indietronica with the cool jazz lines of Miles Davis. It feels like a long battle between light and darkness.

Abstraction and reflection mold “Nostrand Ave”, where Wilner’s synth acquires ghostly shapes and Carter contributes to the spectral composure with unhurried saxophone cogitations. Following an intermediary passage characterized by a primitive rhythm, cyclical electronic elements, and vocal samples, the group establishes a thin rocking texture where the synth melody resembles the sound of stringed instruments. Carter’s phrases become jazzier in the final stretch and the context shifts to a typical avant-jazz.

Having electronic glitches adorning the danceable pulse, “Flatbush Ave” feels simultaneously raw and fashionable, yet sparse in emotional peaks, whereas “East Flatbush”, the bonus track, has Ughi’s drumming as a central element. In due course, Toure’s dark bass drones are transformed into a well-defined groove, sustaining further flute rumination.

New York United mounts their music like structural block collages, avoiding collisions in favor of a mood-setting approach that not always enhances the narratives. A certain strangeness and a scintilla of jazz help to customize alternative, yet often lukewarm environments.

Grade  C+

Grade C+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Canal Street ► 02 - 125th Street ► 03 - Nostrand Ave