Review Summary: rapturous.
"Stir a buzz". I'm not entirely sure this term has ever had such apt accord as with California's Kamasi Washington. There has been very little doubt surrounding the potential of this saxophonist but it is hard to think anyone was truly prepared for his 2015 release, The Epic
. There isn't really an album that comes to mind in recent memory as deserving of such a title, with its gargantuan, sprawling compositions glued together by gorgeously intricate musicianship. Washington is set; so long as he can continue to procure and cultivate appropriate talent to bring flesh to his enviously meticulous ideas, he can and will enjoy a long career riddled with spellbinding performance. Harmony of Difference
sees Washington sparing no time making the most of his illustrious cohort. There are some chinks in the armor, but that is to be expected of such a weathered musician as Washington, irrespective of his commercial infancy.
I'm tempted to call Harmony of Difference
a glorified demo. The cunning displays of technicality strewn throughout the runtime do little to distract from the uncharacteristically boring songwriting. There was an initial urge to throw down the "focused" bomb but this EP seems to be strictly divided into two parts. There is the Truth segment consisting of opener "Desire" and closer "Truth". Then there is the rest of the EP. The Truth segment utilizes one refrain for the entirety of the 18 minutes these two songs encapsulate. The other four songs take similar approach on a micro scale, pushing one idea to the forefront over the course of three to four minutes and expressing that tonal palette with as much adherence to tact as possible. Chemistry is pivotal. Unfortunately, this causes a bit of a stale tension throughout; "Perspective" builds to a solid groove before riding it for a few minutes into an uncertain grave. There is no dynamic shift bar one surgical yet uninspired sax solo, and the song seems conflicted as to whether or not it wants to end before doing so in an awkwardly abrupt fashion.
This uncomfortable fence-sitting plagues the entirety of this middle segment of the EP. It is well within the realm of enticing; there should be no understating the depth of showmanship and clarity of production. However, it is only within the Truth segment that Washington's grasp on conducting euphoria really blossom. The beautifully artless refrain first introduced in "Desire" at the start of Harmony of Difference
is the primary driving force for "Truth". In fact, so much of the success of these two tracks hinges on this melody acting as an earworm that I'm not sure whether to commend Washington's disturbingly mature eye for intricacy or attack his stubborn decision to let such lengthy compositions go without a sonic shift. With only alterations in instrumentation and ever increasing vehemence brewing in the rhythm department acting as signage, there is no real structure to observe. The pieces flow in and out of technical extremity, ghosting beneath veils of subtle movement.
Harmony of Difference
leaves me in a bind. A lack of passion paired with an intense proclivity for matching the mood seems to stilt the mid-section of the release, and the only segment of the album to unapologetically force confidence to the spotlight is essentially one track long. It is indisputable that the lowest lows of this release are still well beyond par for the course, and the moments of wonder are nothing short of astonishing. Regardless of how much effort Washington may or may not have put into the fine-tuning, I can’t help but feel he has succeeded where it counts. It isn’t completely overshadowed, but my recollection of the lulls that plague the core are forced aside by the potency of “Desire” and “Truth”. These tracks comprise a moment in Washington’s career to be proud of, and hopefully such exemplar performance proceeds to follow him wherever he goes. When Harmony of Difference
dips, it ambles. But where it rises, it is rapturous.