There is a telling quote from the famed improvisational pianist Ran Blake framed over the back of the jewel box: "Prana Trio takes the listener on a nightmare from Soho to Twin Peaks." This fascinating New York based trio of Sunny Kim (vocals, drums), Brian Adler (drums, toy piano), and Evan Halloin (double bass), with pianist Frank Carlberg sitting in on one of the eight captivating performances herein, does indeed take the listener on a sound excursion that is wholly riveting. "Nightmare" might be pushing it a bit, but it is unquestionably an aural journey that delights and cajoles.
The sonic palate is contributed to equally by the principals. Kim’s vocals, wordless more than the singing of songs, is haunting. We’re musically socialized to believe that the human voice is a centerpiece. In this instance, as gorgeous and pliable as that voice is, it shares equal space with Adler’s commanding percussion work and Halloin’s fully involved bass. Some judiciously applied electronics aid the program, particularly on "Hatchet Face," the composition that comes closest to that nightmarish feel. Here, the vocals are tracked, and a barren and foreboding aural landscape is painted fantastically.
The addition of Carlberg’s piano to "Living Within the Ocean" adds a thickness, a filling to the piece. Kim’s vocals are hushed, reminding at times of Rhiannon from the San Francisco woman’s collective Alive of some 25 years ago. Adler’s command of the drums is stunning here. Toms with mallets and cymbals played at a hush that compliments the vocals; the drumming weaves in and out of the piano and vocal as much as they weave around the percussion. Halloin coaxes dark and deep lines to compliment all. Drums open "Nalgene Bottles." Adler plays outside, but is clearly influenced by great players such as Elvin Jones. The drum is not something to beat to keep time in his hands, but rather an expressive instrument. Halloin’s extended bass work here is likewise the work of an expressive musician who utilizes every aspect of the fret board, much the way Ron Carter, for instance, does. Kim’s vocal is not a scat like Ella, but an open sound, ala Annette Peacock. The interplay of the musicians is seamless. The bass-vocal duet that opens "Being," for instance, serves as intro to a drum solo.
Adler plays a toy piano on the abbreviated "Peas and Carrots" that would make Cage smile while sharing space with a Fellini-esque vocal. The closing "Why?" has a tic-tock clock-ish rhythm over which bass and vocal set patterns that hypnotize. Kim is particularly effective here, though it must be said that each of these extraordinary musicians is effective in expressing sound throughout the program. An extraordinary collection of music, this is highly recommended.