Quiet Inlet (ECM)
Released April 16, 2010
Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2010
An album of lyrical improvisation, spacious atmospherics and dark pulses from the Food duo of Thomas Strønen and Iain Ballamy, joined by Nils Petter Molvær and Christian Fennesz – in performances captured at Oslo’s Blå club and the Molde Festival, in 2007 and 2008.
A decade earlier, Molde had hosted Food’s debut when English saxophonist Ballamy was invited to join three Norwegian players – Strønen, Arve Henriksen, Mats Eilertsen – for an experimental concert. The group ‘chemistry’ felt so right, from the first notes played, that the players continued as a band. For the next eight years, a Food quartet toured the world, also recording a series of well-received albums. In 2006, the group was revamped, with the core duo of Strønen and Ballamy henceforth joined by guests for special concerts and projects.
On “Quiet Inlet”, Food’s sixth album, and their first for ECM, Austrian guitarist and electronics player Fennesz is featured on the tracks “Tobiko”, “Mictyris”, “Fathom”, while Norwegian trumpeter Molvær appears on “Chimaera”, “Becalmed”, “Cirrina” and “Dweller” (making this NPM’s most extended appearance on ECM since “Solid Ether”). In these open ended improvisations, the contexts are shaped by Food’s priorities, the emphases upon melodic playing, textural development and the creating and exploration of sound-environments. The acoustic aspects of Food’s music, with drums, bells, blocks gongs and lyrical saxophone, are enhanced by the use of live sampling as a structural element. The scope of expression runs, in Food’s words , “from minimalist to very turbulent.”
Both Iain Ballamy and Thomas Strønen are well-known figures in contemporary jazz and improvisation. Ballamy, who came to international attention in the 1980s as a member of the Loose Tubes collective and Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, continues to play with Django Bates in configurations including the group Human Chain. He has also worked with an extraordinarily wide range of bands and projects – from Hermeto Pascoal, Gil Evans and Mike Gibbs to Charlie Watts, the Karnataka College of Percussion and Billy Jenkins,– led his own ensembles, written music for films, and taught at London’s Royal Academy and Trinity College. Food’s first recordings – “Food” and “Organic and GM Food” – were released on Ballamy’s own label, Feral Records.
Last year Food – Strønen /Ballamy plus Arve Henriksen – appeared with the London Sinfonietta, premiering a new work by Iain Ballamy, “Gold Acre.” The work was commissioned by BBC Radio 3, who had previously presented Food with the Innovation Award in the wider context of the British Jazz Awards.
1. Tobiko (Food) 7:08
2. Chimaera (Food) 5:00
3. Mictyris (Food) 5:41
4. Becalmed (Food) 7:52
5. Cirrina (Food) 6:16
6. Dweller (Food) 6:23
7. Fathom (Food) 8:38
Iain Ballamy: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Nils Petter Molvaer: trumpet, electronics
Christian Fennesz: guitar, electronics
Thomas Strønen: drums, live electronics
Recorded live in 2007 and 2008, at Oslo’s Blå Club and the Molde Festival
Producer: Food and Manfred Eicher
Recorded by Simen Scharning (tracks: 2, 4 to 6) and Thomas Hukkelberg (tracks: 1, 3, 7)
Mixed by Food, Jan Erik Kongshaug and Manfred Eicher
Food began life originally as a Cheltenham Jazz Festival commission and well before the huge interest in all things Norwegian ex-Loose Tubes saxman Iain Ballamy decided to chill out as it were by teaming up with drummer Thomas Strønen, shakuhachi-inspired trumpeter Arve Henriksen and bassist Mats Eilertsen for his own Feral records release Food in 1996. Two further records followed at long intervals apart and six years after the last, and in probably their most notable acclaimed album to date, Food reconfigured once more for their QI line-up and first on ECM with Ballamy bringing in Austrian guitarist Christan Fennesz to the Food fight for live concerts recorded in Molde and Oslo caught here. And crucially with Henriksen and Eilertsen long gone, also in came Nils Petter Molvaer, the man renowned for turning ECM into an unlikely if temporary jazz chilltronica redoubt in the late-1990s with the release of Khmer. Quiet Inlet’s seven tracks have a hushed intensity that you’d expect with NPM involved but which collectively reach sonic heights more effectively than either NPM’s recent work whether with his 2009 album Hamada or as a member of Martin France’s Spin Marvel. Molvaer and Ballamy excel on the duelling diphthong-heavy ‘Chimaera’ and ‘Cirrina’ but check out the silence between the spaces if that’s not too much of a cliché of the genre. It’s more or less a compulsory requisite with this album, that has a gravitational pull that only Jon Hassell and a few others can even come close to, and something Jazzwise writers warmed to instinctively.
Stephen Graham (Jazzwise)