Windsleepers: La Fiancee du Pirate (2006)
This debut album by the European Windsleepers ensemble delivers jolts of excitement within a rich, abstract tapestry of sound that's sculpted in large measure by Christine Clement's atmospheric contralto. Her voice, by turns piercing and pastoral, often is indistinguishable from the reeds as it weaves in and around Roby Glod's alto and soprano saxophones, as on "Dance on a Cloud" (at twelve minutes, the longest piece on the album), and "Isetta Go," a grand march with waltz-time phrases.
Haven't we heard music like this before? Perhaps. The title track recalls some of Frank Zappa's early work with the Mothers of Invention: the bursts of sound, the charging, then retreating keyboards, a sense of chaos barely controlled. At times the music runs amok. Clement's soaring, incantatory vocals on the title track bring to mind Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 from 1976. Glod's thick daubs of sound point to Charles Lloyd. The openings of "Exit N" and "Blue Mood" suggest eerie moments from Lalo Schifrin's score for Dirty Harry. So yes, in a sense we have heard music like this, but Windsleepers bring it under their own dazzling canopy.
Some ideas on the album are opaque and clinical, theorems waiting for proofs. The meditative "Chimeres" is an example of this. But maybe that's part of the allure of this impressionistic, challenging music. The group establishes its territory early on. We either adjust or we don't.
Glod's alto solos dominate "The Wind Sleepers," a tribute of sorts to the poet Emily Dickinson that uses a recurring three-note figure as its ground, and "Winter Walk," a study in the dramatic crescendo that features Peter Schonfeld's frenetic bass work.
While there may be little new in this new-sounding music, there is much to enjoy. Windsleepers possess a powerful, authoritative musical voice full of emotion and bravura.
Track Listing: Xtine's Dream; La Fiancee du Pirate; Exit N; Dance on a Cloud; Chimeres; The Wind Sleepers; Isetta Go; Winter Walk; Blue Mood; Incertitude Mireille.
Personnel: Christine Clement: vocals, trumpet; Roby Glod: alto and soprano saxophone; Stefan Heidtmann: keyboards; Peter Schonfeld: electric upright bass; Klaus Kugel: drums, percussion.