After compelling contributions to ECM discs by David Torn and Michael Formanek, here is Tim Berne s first leader date for the label and his first studio record in 8 years. Snakeoil introduces a fascinating ensemble, a chamber-like group in Berne s words, albeit one that packs some power. Tim s clear alto is heard with Oscar Noriega s earthy clarinets, Mat Mitchell s cryptic piano, and Ches Smith s tone-conscious drums, tympani, gongs and congas. Two years of wood-shedding preceded the recording of Snakeoil at New York s Avatar Studios early in 2011, and the band was ready to roar. The album highlights Berne s compositional style original and avant-garde yet perhaps more accessible on this outing.