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The Ambush Party: Circus (2014)

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The Ambush Party: Circus How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The aptly named, Amsterdam-based The Ambush Party is a band that aims to take you by surprise. This international quartet— Argentinian Natalio Sued, Norwegian cellist Harald Austbø, Dutch pianist Jan Hoogland and Brazilian drummer Marcos Baggiani—knows no boundaries. All is thrown into its inventive, joyful stew—noise, tango, drum n' bass, opera and obviously jazz. The quartet alternates between an ironic, old-fashioned manner of playing, adventurous exploratory outbursts or simply theatrics and humor.

Circus is their sophomore release, after a self- titled debut in 2008. It was recorded live at Moers Jazz Festival in 2011. The six pieces feature highly collaborative, eccentric interplay. The Ambush Party enjoys swift and abrupt changes in its pieces, employing assorted extended techniques including hammering on the piano strings and wooden body, usage of multiphonics, and bowing on the cello body and cymbals, all in service of rich, dramatic narratives that often sound larger than the conventional sonic palette of a quartet. The program is structured like a set of detailed, dramatic stories. Each symbolizes a vivid scene from circus life, patiently gaining power, volume, nuances and colors.

After the contemplative introduction of "The Invisible Acrobats" and already on the second piece, "Rope Dancer," the quartet establishes energetic, tight interplay, flirting between poetic, melodic segments and a muscular, driving pulse. The most eccentric piece is "Rehearsing the Clowns Act" with its dadaist, wild progression that highlights the inventive side of each musician, notably Hoogland and Austbø. The lyrical duet of Hoogland and Austbø sketches the sad life of "The Elephant," locked away from its natural habitat. The melancholic atmospheres soon change, with the chaotic theatrical eruptions of "The Tiger is Loose" then the course changes abruptly again on the last piece, "Trapez Gesang." This dramatic piece is introduced by eccentric, operatic vocals, then moves into a gentle piano passage that sounds inspired by Argentinian tango clouded by percussion noises, strange bowing sounds, and funny voices.

Faithful to its name and to the circus life, The Ambush Party delivers a wild, engaging ride.

Track Listing: The Invisible Acrobats; Rope Dancer; Rehearsing the Clowns Act; The Elephant; The Tiger is Loose; Trapez Gesang.

Personnel: Natalio Sued: tenor sax, clarinet; Harald Austbø: cello; Oscar Jan Hoogland: piano; Marcos Baggiani: drums.

Record Label: De Platenbakkerij


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