Gourmet: Glamour & Decadence (2001)
Self-indulgence is usually a dirty word when applied to music, but in the case of Gourmet and their debut album, Glamour and Decadence, on the Finnish Fiasko Records, it perfectly describes, and compliments, their bizarre brand of music.
Gourmet's stated, and highly unique, goal is to "play original music specifically written for the instrumental combination of saxophone, slide trombone, accordion, electric guitar, double bass and drums." The sources of inspiration could conceivably be endless, since "no style is banned" and they take liberally from such diverse sources as blues, jazz, tango, rock, surf, noise and even Greek bouzouki music. All of these combine into an eccentric and intoxicating brew-atavistic music that maybe never even had its own time.
Guitarist Esa Onttonen and Saxophonist Mikko Innanen compose and arrange Gourmet's repertoire, which consists of pieces whose border between arranged and free structures is imperceptible. Onttonen's "Tragedia" begins life as a tango. Innanen blows the dramatic melody in his raw, sultry tone, complimented by the melancholy mode of Veli Kujala on accordion. The middle section of the piece slides into a series of noisy, crashing outbursts, then smoothly reverts to the opening theme. This juxtaposition is accomplished so smoothly that it works as a natural extension of the original material.
The very specific instrumental combination lends itself to detailed ensemble arrangements and concentrated moods, similar to the focus of film scores. An earlier incarnation of Gourmet interpreted two Ennio Morricone pieces and his shadow makes an appearance here as well. Onttonen's "Kukka" and Innanen's "Ariel" both feature delicate, wistful themes reminiscent of Morricone's Once Upon a Time in America themes. The whole ensemble also shares the melodic burden, weaving rich, harmonious textures.
Gourmet has nothing against infectious rhythms either, but theirs are not the trendy "beats" of the moment and neither do they use their inspirations without mutating them. "Motor-Up" takes to the road with a wild-eyed, wide-open blues, while "Las Palmas" reclines on a bed of subdued Latin percussion. "Kebab Ranskalaisilla" (visit a pizzeria in Finland sometime and you will get the humor) sounds like a frenzied send-up of surf music and some Middle Eastern mode. "Thy Master" and "Mihail & Katjuska" reach to the Balkans, Greece and beyond for a twisted and somewhat wicked ride. The latter uses the curious combination of marimba and bouzouki to play a melody that refuses to stop dancing about in your head after listening.
Gourmet's eclecticism could be compared to John Zorn's post-modern, channel-changing Naked City, but they lack that band's ironic, calculated stance. Instead, they replace it with an honest pleasure in playing and tighter musical focus, resulting in songs imbued with wit and human warmth. Certainly they crack a few smiles while playing this music. They are indulging themselves, and from the sound of things, loving every minute of it-as you surely will.
Track Listing: 1.There's No Place Like The Old Place 2.Monica 3.Bela L 4.Motor-Up 5.Ariel 6.1334 7.Tragedia 8.Kukka 9.Mihail & Katjuska 10.Kebab ranskalaisilla 11.Lauluja tilaisuuksiin, osa 1 - uudet valtiot 12.Detroit 13.Las Palmas 14.Kaksin 15.Thy Master 16.Kiduspoika Janus
Personnel: Mikko Innanen, soprano, alto and baritone saxophone, voice Ilmari Pohjola, slide trombone Veli Kujala, accordion Esa Onttonen, electric and acoustic guitars, bouzouki, voice Janne Antikainen, double bass Mika Kallio, drums, gong with Petri Korpela, percussion: bass drum (3), miscellaneous percussion (4), rumba timba (6), cymbals (6,14), marimba (6,9,16), voice (6), tambourine (9), bongos, riq (10), congas (13), chimes, bells (14,16)