Joshua Abrams And Natural Information Society - Mandatory Reality 2xLP
Following on the heels of 2017's Simultonality is this double LP masterstroke from Joshua Abrams and Natural Information Society, Mandatory Reality. Featuring an eight-piece acoustic incarnation of NIS - with Abrams on guimbri, along with harmonium, tam-tam, gongs, autoharp, piano, tabla, tar, cornet, alto sax, and bass clarinet - the album is centered around two long form compositions by Abrams ("In Memory's Prism" and "Finite"). Recorded live to tape at Electical Audio in Chicago, Mandatory Reality reveals its beauty slowly and methodically.
Though ostensibly a jazz group - and Abrams' pedigree is mostly under the umbrella of Chicago's long-running free-jazz scene including stints in Nicole Mitchell's and Rob Mazurek's groups - NIS' music doesn't give much space to soloing or histrionics. The pieces on Mandatory Reality have more in common with 20th century minimalist composers or the more experimental side of the '90s post-rock scene than they do the catalogs of Blue Note or Impulse!. In fact, the album is in part the logical progression of his former group, Town & Country and even, at times, feels like an acoustic counterpoint to the work of electronic artists such as Pole or Jan Jelinek.
With Natural Information Society, Joshua Abrams has created his most engrossing works. This is a group that has found such an elusive thing - a sound that is simultaneously methodical and boundless, the art of reaching a meditative state through intense concentration and dedicated craft - and Mandatory Reality is their most assured album to date.