It begins in isolation: a descending piano line, a star-twinkle gradually picking up speed as it traverses the lonely sky. The song – the title track to Colin Mawson’s Death of the Ego, out next week via Disintegration State – is eerily calm and resolute, an interesting take to lead a record by a multi-instrumental who, the LP teaches us, is best when he mixes, not mimics, Parker-era Tortoise jazz-rock with a classical composer’s more conventional etudes.
It is the record’s second track, the well-constructed “Obfuscate,” running time 8:15, that comes to define Death of the Ego: a collection of wandering and densely patterned gems or — to stretch the star comparison — a series of light spots in dark sky that appear to dart in different directions, only to eventually reveal the intent of their paths.
Mawson, in his finer moments, lends a more urban flavor to textural jazz-rock, providing tinny beats to accent the computer blips and beeps, bass, or swells of synth and strings that surface throughout his recordings. But the guitar, too, adds lots of color – exhibit A is the glassy post-rock-isms of “Enough Rope” or the closing of “Orange, Eventually.” While sometimes the resulting compositions can be a little repetitive (I only can think of “The Futility of Human Endeavor,” to be honest), elsewhere they blend the subtleties of Mawson’s piano work with a patchwork of engaging sounds to great effect.
To that end, you need look no further than the record’s closing songs – “Cobbles” and “Orange, Conceptually,” really beautiful pieces that balance the aesthetics of the first two, quite divergent tracks. Beginning and end, the ends of beginnings; it makes for an engaging – and ever-mutating – kind of cycle. “Cobbles” aches of Satie, wonderfully so. And the closer begins with a slithering little jazz line on strings and expands into a grand palette. It’s an interesting blend, for sure, something new that hasn’t been beaten to death yet like some forgotten dead horse. And it’s far from the title’s suggestion of an enigmatic death.