In October of 2020, Baltimore’s High Zero festival asked curators around the country to assemble improvisers in their regions for a streaming edition of the festival. Santa Fe bassist Carlos Santistevan put together a group of New Mexico players featuring himself, Tatsuya Nakatani, and Raven Chacon. The performance marked their first encounter as a trio and took place in San Miguel Chapel—the oldest chapel in the United States.
That initial session was recorded and ready for release when the hard drive containing the files was stolen from Santistevan’s car before a proper backup could be made. The trio quickly made plans to hold another recording session at the San Miguel Chapel. Inhale/Exhale is the document of that session.
Nakatani’s frenetic percussion provides a foundation for the buzzsaw swarm of stringed instruments from Chacon and Santistevan. Throughout the two improvisations, beats and crashes map the space, the adobe walls offering a muted and earthen resonance. The trio’s unique sound is created by the performers’ experience in a myriad other fields: Chacon in metal and noise groups, Nakatani’s time playing avant-country with Eugene Chadbourne and in his Nakatani Gong Orchestra project, as well as Santistevan’s deep roots in the aesthetically untethered experimental music of Northern New Mexico. Inhale/Exhale is not only a compelling and engaging meeting of a trio of musicians in their prime, but a needed transmission from an often overlooked but vibrant part of the country.