There haven’t been very many experimental records worth writing home about in 2023 thus far, but upon the arrival of Louis Siciliano’s Ancient Cosmic Truth, that’s officially going to change. Siciliano’s new record, a four-song piece that crosses as many boundaries within the jazz universe as it can without getting too scattered, is as groove-powered as they come, but it’s hardly a one-note affair for jazz fans this season. Whether you’re a fan of lush instrumentation or sensible songwriting from an eccentric POV, Ancient Cosmic Truth is one of the few studio releases I’ve listened to that has something to suit almost every audiophile’s needs this January.
The bassline is understated and quietly circles the backdrop of “Bambara’s Symmetries,” “The Secret of Mansa” and “Translucent Dodecahedron,” but it’s nevertheless critical to the cushioning of the main melody at the front of the mix. Where some of his rivals might have been quick to bury the sharper leads in Ancient Cosmic Truth in heavy bass tones, Siciliano does the exact opposite here, and in turn, produces something that sounds both aggressively melodic and entirely untethered to any of the current trends making waves in the jazz underground. Originality is everything in indie music, and this artist has it down to a science like few of his rivals do.
Louis Siciliano’s arrangements aren’t as much of a focus in the mix as I would have liked them to be in “The Secret of Mansa,” but I suppose I can understand what he was trying to achieve with this. While “Bambara’s Symmetries” is a perfect equilibrium (sonically speaking), this song is more jaggedly-mixed, creating an additional layer of tension in the music that wouldn’t be present otherwise. He’s pushing us to the edge of our seats in the most deceptively simple way imaginable in Ancient Cosmic Truth, and that alone makes this an intriguing record.
I love the structure of this tracklist. From start to finish, there’s scarcely a moment in which songs like the title track, “Translucent Dodecahedron,” “The Secret of Mansa” and the glowing “Bambara’s Symmetries” don’t channel some level of concept-inspired catharsis, sans the bombasts that come with more indulgent progressive material. Ancient Cosmic Truth isn’t operatic per se, but to suggest that it has the grand theatrics of such a record might be too minor a description for critics to make. At the very least, it is quite obvious Siciliano had major ambitions when listening to this LP, and that might have been the number one thing he wanted to get through to listeners.
Though I wasn’t following Louis Siciliano before getting my hands on a pre-release copy of Ancient Cosmic Truth, I’m looking forward to watching his development more in the future. I don’t think this record is representative of what he could accomplish at full capacity; contrarily, I believe that all of the songs here create a glimpse into what he could do in the right venue. Siciliano has a lot of ground to cover, and he isn’t wasting any time getting right to the task at hand here.