To appreciate the experimental nature of Weaver (PEOPLE), the third album of the trio Twin Talk, compare the short track “Miniature I” with its counterpart, “Miniature II.” Same disarming melody in two starkly contrasting arrangements. The first, the electronic version, uses a drum track behind the voice in unison with the sax, both reverb-laden, repeating the hook. The second, the acoustic version, uses hollowly ringing gankogui bells behind an upright bass and unadorned sax, also repeating the hook. These two tracks alone are a study in creative musicianship.

 The three Chicago musicians that constitute Twin Talk—reed player Dustin Laurenzi, bassist/vocalist Katie Ernst, and drummer/percussionist Andrew Green—holed up in a recording studio for five days in 2017 to explore the boundaries between improvised and composed music. The product of this exploratory undertaking is a 10-track album of nuanced phrases and subtle excitement.    

 Laurenzi, a commanding improviser on woodwinds, wrote most of the pieces on the release. His ideas run the gamut from the unhurried, aptly named “Folks,” where Green leans into a slow, heavy backbeat, to the free and frenzied “Paxton,” which shifts abruptly—and intentionally—into an ambling ballad midway through. His use of repeated phrases, doubled melody lines, and contained solos drives these pieces in a satisfyingly linear direction (though the surprising edit on “Paxton” takes some getting used to).        

 Ernst’s wordless, straight-tone vocals, which hover around the tonal center of the tunes on which she sings, figure prominently on this record and contribute strongly to the dramatic tension of the compositions. Ernst penned three of the tracks—the standout is “Human Woman” for its breathless, insistent vocalese and propulsive bass line. Powerful.

(Reprinted from the December issue of Downbeat magazine.)