Review Summary: I know a classic when I hear one. Listen to this album. Then listen again. And again.
This brilliant music ignores genre boundaries, blending classic jazz forms, intense rock forms (Calexico comes to mind), and containing remarkably sensitive and virtuosic musicianship (particularly on keyboards) -- with a mix of acoustic and electric sounds. It demands close attention and repeated listening because the extent of its intricacy, depth and originality only reveal themselves in stages. The first time through it is notable for the sheer power of the playing, richness of sound, and mix of moods. The next time, the variety of textures, and the remarkable precision of the aural blend (this is a very tight band) carries the listener more deeply into every track. This is not a showy album; first and foremost it is a parade of songs -- deeply felt, brilliantly composed, yet more than sufficiently elastic to accommodate wonderfully rich improvisations. But the improvisations are anchored in respect for, and commitment to, the song structures and moods. The band never "uses" them as springboards for flights of virtuosity for its own sake. On the next listen, the impact deepens further, even as the surface remains fresh and present. By now the listener has heard these compositions several times, yet the changes, moods, and impacts somehow remain surprising -- thrilling -- even as one has started to know what's coming. One continues to feel that this is the first time. That is a rare quality, and one begins to recognize that the music is reaching deeply into places that may not have been reached in quite this way before.
A core quality of great art is its refusal to become familiar. Despite repeated exposure, genuine art retains the power to astonish. One even feels a sense of loss each time this album ends, which shifts to gratitude that there will be a next listen. The excitement doesn't fade, and the sense arises that perhaps it never will because it continues to reveal new layers. It reveals itself to be a fully-achieved creation, and fully-achieved art transcends the intentions of its creator. It establishes an independent "life," retaining the power to astonish -- remaining fresh and restorative -- across generations.
I have no way of knowing if this review is an overheated example of the kind of hyperbole that such wonderful music can lead to. But I believe I know a classic when I hear one.