The moment I see or hear about a new Lotte Anker album, I get excited. I know, before going into it or hearing it, that it’s going to be something that expands the boundaries of what she had done on previous albums. Throw out any preconceived notions about Anker being a woman, being a European playing jazz, throw all of that away and just listen. What you get is an incredible musician who has a plan with her music, executes it, and lets things fall, collapse, or build to create… anything. The passion is in beginning, knowledge is its conclusion, but the skill is on how to get there. This is what she, along with Craig Taborn, and Gerald Cleaver do with the mindfuck of an album known as Floating Islands (ILK).
I’ll tell you what moved me first. Upon looking at the back cover, I see five songs. I’m set. I look at the lengths: “Floating” is a trusting 9:34 while “Ritual” goes in to explain its title by going in at 16:22. “Floating” begins with a calling by Anker, a way to say “welcome, I am coming in to your mental dome, welcome us, we are about to mess up your senses.” She kind of does that purr or roll with her saxophone, and it’s a slow path towards the point where all three are ready to load, lock, and shoot. Her projects are known for being free, but she unites her love of free/improvisational jazz with form and precision, nothing is done in a ridiculous manner. Then it kicks into “Ritual”, with Taborn’s piano playing being very basic and repetitive, but that takes in the listener to a place they want to take you into, and it feels as if she has entered the John Coltrane tunnel to say “I will add to the vivid pictures that are already here”. At times her notes are played as fierce as Pharoah Sanders, John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, and Lester Bowie. At 16½ minutes, the duration compliments what they’re all trying to do, and it’s getting there that makes the song a trip.
“Even Today I Am Still Arriving” sounds as if Anker, Taborn, and Cleaver, are slowly putting away their instruments in cases, ready to move on to the next town. The music on Floating Islands are not a circus, but those who aren’t familiar with the creativity and spirit of jazz, they may hear it as complete outsider music. What makes this album a joy to hear is that it’s not the outsiders fearing this, but instead they’re in denial of wanting to go in.