This intriguing, album from Wellington drummer Reuben Bradley delves into the (1920s horror fantasy) world of H.P. Lovecraft, telling a musical tale of Lovecraft’s kraken-type space deity character Cthulhu. Recorded back in 2013 at the Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, NYC, and mixed and mastered in 2015 by Steve Garden at his studio in Auckland, this horror-fantasy-jazz suite (and I mean that in a literary way) mixes the unsettled darkness of Lovecraftian imagination with Bradley’s sharp-edged, sinuous, hypnotic jazz.
Written by Bradley for piano trio – with himself on drums, American pianist Taylor Eigsti and ex-pat Kiwi bassist Matt Penman – ‘Cthulhu Rising’ is a fantastic listen. Much like the stories by Lovecraft, this album will keep you on the edge of your seat (but much safer to listen to before you go to bed than reading a Lovecraft tale), frequently taking you in unexpected directions, and building delicious musical tension and release, before ramping up the tension again. Bradley heightens the drama by including readings of excerpts on some of the tracks, which adds to the atmosphere – reminding the listener of radio plays, or War Of The Worlds (the musical – albeit in this case, jazz rather than rock). If there were any nitpicks to make it would be that I wish there were liner notes: a set of Lovecraftian-styled notes about the suite would have gone down a treat. However, this Rattle release is a recommended listen for any jazz fan, and indeed anyone who enjoys a good literary tale in musical form.