Drummer/composer Dylan Ryan might lead the band, but he continues to place the phenomenal talents of guitarist Timothy Young front and center on 2014's Circa, the sophomore Cuneiform label album by Ryan's Sand trio. Like Sky Bleached, Sand's 2013 debut, the trio's second outing is an electric guitar tour de force, with Young displaying deeply creative fretwork over the solid backing of Ryan and bassist Devin Hoff. Once again, Ryan proves himself to be a highly inventive percussionist, but the blindfolded listener might still presume this is Young's band until peeking at the cover and seeing Ryan's name there, and also noticing that the drummer composed six songs and gets a co-composer credit, with his bandmates, for three other improvisation-based tracks. Ryan gives opener "Trees, Voices, Saturn" a seven-beat pulse, engaging and then pulling back from Hoff's steady vamp as Young waxes atmospheric with long, ringing notes and chords mixing just the right helpings of twang and gravel. The guitarist's tone -- balanced somewhere between country and post-grunge -- dirties up the proceedings, but it's not hard to imagine that the theme Ryan penned for Young could also be scored for horns in a tight little jazz-rock combo. And as Ryan and Hoff jam away beneath Young, who cuts loose with burning sustain in a nearly psychedelic solo, Sand summon up the ghosts of classic improvising guitar-bass-drums trios from decades past -- minus any indulgences, however, since the tune is over in scarcely more than four and a half minutes. In fact, concision is a hallmark of the 38-minute Circa, which features ten tracks like Sky Bleached, but clocks in at eight minutes shorter. That's not a problem -- even for a "jazz" album emphasizing individual and collective improvisation -- given the strength of the writing and playing heard here. Sand need only two minutes to transform "Sledge Tread" into a monster, with Young's swoop and roar joined by a tribal rhythm before the guitarist hits the wah-wah over Ryan's bashing and Hoff's hollowed-out bass. And an improvisational number like "Night Sea Journey" -- with Young's woozy glisses and note bends over Hoff's abraded arco drone -- establishes an effectively disturbed mood without crossing the two-minute mark. Still, the best tracks are in the comparatively roomy four- to five-minute range: Young veers from in-your-face chordal assault to ringing, echoey expansiveness before the band goes full-on anthemic at the conclusion of "Visionary Fantasy"; Ryan and Hoff groove out in 5/8 as the guitarist finds perfect voicings for the themes, solos, and dynamic shifts of "Low Fell"; and the trio transforms "Mortgage on My Soul" from Keith Jarrett's 1971 Birth album into a blistering Hendrix-ian meld of fire and funk, with the guitarist trotting out his wah-wah pedal once again (harking back to Charlie Haden's one and only recorded use of the device). Sky Bleached was a killer opening salvo for Dylan Ryan's Sand; Circa ups the ante and proves the debut was no fluke.