Don’t believe the opening notes of Lama‘s Oneiros… they’re a lie and they’ll steer you the wrong way. The pronounced bounce and charge of trumpet and bass is like a doorway into a confused Ringling Bros. tent. It’s the opening statement to both song and album. It says, hey, this is what it’s all about. But it’s a lie. Because after the first 30 seconds, the carnival packs up and leaves town, and all that remains are long beautiful trumpet calls, low and serene, over a sea of electronics and gentle rhythms. It’s a dramatic moment on a dramatic album.
The tempo and volume pick up on that first tune, then shift back down to staccato bursts of uneven sound, but Smith’s brushwork keeps it tied back to the serenity that grows distant on the horizon but keeps barely in sight. It gets one to thinking they know where they stand on this album.
Keep your eye on that horizon, because the serenity is coming back. Hard to see it, but the thump of solo percussion foretells of its arrival, and the long strides of bass give credence to the promise. Santos returns with beveled notes that rise up and down at odd angles. Electronics swirl about her like desert wind. It appears that all is right with the world again. But don’t believe that… it’s a lie and it’ll steer you the wrong way.
Oneiros is a name for the lord of Dream, and even in the most mundane of dreams, nothing is like it seems and nothing stays the same way for very long. And for this, Lama has most certainly not recorded a mundane dream. Sometimes it’s a spy story as with the suave “Dr. No”, and sometimes it’s an animated animal journey like the chipper “Overture for Penguins”. Don’t miss the firefly waltz of “Melodia Minúscula,” especially not after the naked-in-the-high-school-hallways nightmare of “My Fucking Thesis.”
The album ends as it began, with the unnerving bounce and charge dispelled by a serene slow-build of benign tension. And as before, the electronics whip around, now with more bite, perhaps in anticipation that the dream will soon be over.
Thankfully, once ended, recapturing it is as simple as pressing the play button.
Oneiros by Lama is a 47 minute recording of modern jazz, released on the excellent Clean Feed label, who has time again proven themselves unafraid to take chances with challenging recordings.