Last updated on October 14, 2020
HUW x Richard X Bennett‘s InParallel is the sort of jazz record that I have come to really enjoy in the last year. It’s got obvious jazz sounds and approaches, but mixes in a wide variety of other genres to show its vision. That vision is as a massive space opera sci-fi experience.
Opener “A Path Before That” kicks off with a squawking earworm of a riff from a synthesizer before slowly falling apart into a staticy, wind-swept expanse of barren post-rock, then blasting off into a maximum jazz sequence (and then back). It covers an enormous amount of ground in 3:34 and sets a vision of expansive, detail-oriented, jazz+ music. But it doesn’t yet let the listener in on the big reveal, which comes in the third and titular track: sci-fi jams. Lots of them. Good ones.
Part of the sci-fi expansiveness of their sound comes from the trio’s unusual setup: piano, synthesizer, and percussion. The piano and synthesizer sometimes trade riffs against the percussion backline, but also sometimes set the stage for each other. The title track sees the piano taking front and center in the intro, before a smash-cut leads into an absolutely massive wall of synthesizers. The pensive piano melody comes back in over the towering, sci-fi sound, creating a powerful tune that Muse would have been happy to come up with. (They play with the “pare to almost nothing, then blast a wall of synths at you” several more times in this song and in other songs; be forewarned.) The synthesizer sounds and the mysterious, enchanting piano work create a sense of extraterrestrial grandeur.
It goes on: The synth melody of “Love is a Distance” is immediately memorable; the laid-back drums and walloping bass hits emphasize it even more. “The Dimension” is sort of a punk rock version of their ideas, outer space at double time. Closer “A Song for All” is a lush, legato piece with hovering, distant synths that evoke a feeling of an overawed tourist gently hurtling through the galaxy. InParallel is a fascinating, bombastic record that has jazz, post-rock, and sci-fi stuff all jammed together. It’s awesome.