‘Tuned In’ review: Adam Rudolph’s ‘Mandala’ has method in the mayhem

'Sonic Mandala' by Adam Rudolph and Go: Organic Orchestra

"Sonic Mandala" by Adam Rudolph and Go: Organic Orchestra

The Go: Organic Orchestra is the ultimate jam band.

The act is a project by conductor Adam Rudolph, a veteran musician whose upbringing in the Chicago jazz scene and subsequent immersion in African drumming informs the mix of “Sonic Mandala,” the orchestra’s first studio recording.

But although Rudolph leads the 33 musicians, he doesn’t exactly define their output.

In fact, their output is largely undefinable beyond “improv,” thanks to the free-form style and diversity of sound that results from the interplay of a flute section, a woodwind section, a brass section, a keyboard section, a string section and a percussion/drum section.

Rudolph, himself playing several instruments as a member of the percussion/drum section, generally makes sure songs have a pronounced rhythmic anchor, albeit an ever-changing one. Other instruments seem to informally come and go, in groups and alone, sometimes swelling from a muted presence and sometimes just appearing out of nowhere.

Occasionally “Sonic Mandala” edges into cacophonous hysteria and sometimes it sinks into dull meandering. However, it mostly strikes an inviting balance of hypnosis and vigor.

The listener becomes the final member of the Go: Organic Orchestra, bringing associations and meaning to the sound. For instance, the chimes and bells of the track “Part Three” act up in intermittent storm-like gusts, teasing at something ominous to come. Other tracks might evoke a horror film or a tropical rainforest, depending on the audience perception, and some might find themselves riveted by string or brass jags while others are just caught up in the cadence.

Rudolph and company seem to be aware of the divergent effect they’re having, so they close with a “Part Twelve (Universal Mother)” that emits a unifying vibe that feels like a humming embrace.

Even if this nontraditional music doesn’t have mass appeal, adventurous souls might welcome the hug.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)

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