The Madness of Crowds, review by John Fordham

John Fordham, The Guardian, England, July 21, 2011

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Sleepthief is New York-based German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock's improv trio, with pianist Liam Noble and American drummer Tom Rainey. Like the group's Intakt debut in 2008, this set sounds just as inclined to a shoot-and-duck improvising approach, in which patient use of space and a willingness to drive for extended passages in low gear mix with bursts of dense and busier activity. And, now, Laubrock sounds a lot more assured. The titles of the pieces are taken from 19th-century Scottish writer Charles Mackay's study of cults and crazes – perhaps a comment on improv's anti-populist stance. The music is a wider and wilder mix than before. Laubrock's yelping lines over Rainey's battering percussion, her contrasting murmurings over damped piano strings and arrhythmic tappings, windy multiphonic sounds amid cowbell chimes and ghostly chords reveal an increasingly distinctive Sleepthief soundscape. Tulipmania, a piece of virtuosic free-jazz for Laubrock's bright and buzzy phrasing against Noble's flinty runs, is a highlight, as is the dreamy tone poem of the finale.