Blackholes and Modulations is the second album from the Ephemera Quartet, an Australian ensemble led by composer Keyna Wilkins (piano/flute) with Elsen Price (double bass/loop pedal), Will Gilbert (trumpet) and Carl St Jacques (viola). Space is a major preoccupation for the group, whose semi-improvised works explore celestial landscapes, pulsars, craters, planetary atmospheres, stars, sun and, yes, black holes. Apollo Mission incorporates open-source NASA recordings; other tracks include audio from space missions and electromagnetic waves from planets and stars compiled by Paul Francis, Professor of Astronomy at Australian National University.
There is a long tradition of space-influenced exploratory improvisations in both jazz and progressive rock; western classical music also has had plenty of space-focussed moments. The Ephemera Quartet clearly draws on these antecedents, most successfully with Star Trance, a beautifully ephemeral piece featuring interplay between shimmering electronics and modal flute lines that is sophisticated and compelling. After weaving its way into the synapses, this standout track seems to leave as mysteriously as it appeared.