Dylan Ryan Sand – Circa (2014)

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When experimental drummer Dylan Ryan formed his Sand trio a couple of years ago with guitarist Timothy Young and bassist Devin Hoff, it quickly coalesced because of the similar background of the three in the areas of experimental, rock and jazz and the beguiling zones where these styles overlap.

And yet, their debut album’s biggest accomplishment is that they brought those things together in a way that made the music easily embraceable.

Sky Bleached (2013), therefore, made for a solid debut album for Dylan Ryan Sand, and it’s much of those same features that makes Circa (September 30, 2014, Cuneiform Records) a solid follow up.

So how do they do it? Let’s start with Young, a diversely talented guitarist who fills up a lot of sonic space with his rich ethereal surfaces and can rock as hard as the best of them, assuming both the rhythm and lead guitar roles with equal poise. Hoff is just as versatile, but the thing is, he’s assuming both the acoustic and electric bass roles with only his standup, unplugged bass. And Ryan himself is such a nimble drummer, who can pilot smoothly through tricky rhythmic patterns, and showing a delicate touch even through heavier moments. A little like Stewart Copeland and that other “Stewart” drummer, Bill Stewart.

Put together, this is a band that’s able to play the mostly Ryan originals with a looseness that remains persistent but flexible enough to give these songs a natural flow. Yet, these songs rarely go over five minutes, even shorter than on Sky Bleached. Think of them as compact jams.

Within this concise approach, fully formed ideas come forth. “Trees, Voices, Saturn” is like a breezy vintage, late 60’s jam rock groove, especially due to Hoff’s bass groove. “Possession” is what Black Sabbath might sound had they attempted fusion, and “Visionary Fantasy” boasts an intro rocks with intense angularity, like The Who. Young’s guitar is textural within a metal concept, while Ryan’s drums are monstrous in building up to the intense finale.

I like “Pink Noir” for its atmospheric guitar gliding over Ryan’s nimble rim work. And “Mortgage On My Soul” is one of Keith Jarrett’s few bona fide rockers ever. Here, it rocks harder still, and Ryan is destroying his cymbals to make sure that it does. “Raw Rattle” finds Ryan thrashing about like John Bonham as Young makes hay with his stinging, quivering notes.

Though Dylan Ryan Sand is a small band, they create a big sound; though the songs are short, they’re complete musical statements. Circa makes a lot out of a little.

Visit Dylan Ryan’s website for more info.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at [email protected] .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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