(139) Jacob Teichroew, About.com -- August 2008

House of Return is violinist Jeff Gauthier’s latest release for Cryptogramophone Records, on which he presents an understated and beautiful collection of tracks ranging from lyrical modern jazz to collectively improvised texture pieces...

Gauthier is the founder of Cryptogramophone, a label dedicated to progressive music. Its catalog consists of recordings that don’t easily fall into any categories, such as the recent releases from Todd Sickafoose, Bennie Maupin, and Nels Cline. House of Return combines jazz, rock, free improvisation, and electronics into a rich and yet simple mural.
Gauthier’s ensemble, dubbed the “Goatette,” eschews convention while adhering to key principles of accessible music such as lyricism and brevity. Composed of violin, drums, bass, electric guitar, keyboards, and electronics, the ensemble risks growing dense and ugly. However, each member makes his statement in the simplest of terms, giving the group’s sound a reassuring lightness... 

The disc opens with “Biko’s Blues,” a composition by bassist Eric von Essen, Gauthier’s former collaborator who died in 1997. The track’s lush timbre is a result of the violin’s warm tone masterfully sensitive joint accompaniment by Nels Cline on guitar on David Witham on piano. Each member of the group, aside from drummer Alex Cline, takes a brief solo, and each is sure to maintain the wistful mood of the piece.
A smattering of spacey outbursts introduces the second track, “Friends of the Animals,” which soon gives way into a craggy groove, through which guitar and keyboard effects bubble and pop. Alex Cline drives the song with his quirky beat, ramping his intensity over hammering vamps. Bassist Joel Hamilton’s brief and flittering outpouring marks a point of high excitement, an unusual feat for a bass solo.

The title track begins with a mischievous improvisational conversation between the violin and the guitar, and the song’s structure moves between improvised sections of a similar nature, and driving, stately, composed sections...

Overall, “House of Return” is an example of the promise that progressive, genre defying improvised music holds. It is exciting to imagine what Gauthier and the other artists on Cryptogramophone have in store. - by  Jacob Teichroew

Jacob Teichroew
August 2008