Flux: Peninsulator (2010)
Any band setting out to make a debut recording these days has a potentially inexhaustible number of influences from which to draw upon. Consequently, it is increasingly difficult to sound unlike anybody else. Flux, whose members attend Copenhagen's Rhythmic Music Conservatory, has produced a recording with echoes of progressive rock, classical chamber music and post-modern jazz influences ranging from Pat Metheny to Jaga Jazzist. To a large extent it succeeds in sounding original.
The opener, "Albino African Endangered Rhino," kicks off in a driving groove before giving way to Simon Linnert's dissonant piano and Jesper Thorn's bass improvisations, which suggest Craig Taborn and William Parker as influences. A repeated piano motif and lively drumming forms a base for Mikkel Breck's flute solo, followed by guitarist Per Arne Ferner's melodious lines.
Arne Ferner is responsible for all the compositions on Peninsulator, and the majority of them are characterized by the harmonic coupling of guitar and flute, giving the band an identifiable sound. The slow-paced "How to Greet the Big Cheese" features a lovely piano figure from Linnert and the brushes of drummer Marc Lohr.
Linnert's memorable motifs and riffs combined with an identifiably Northern European vein and a collective grandeur bring a flavor to much of the music reminiscent of Esbjorn Svensson Trio or In The Country.
"Forget It, It's Chinatown" showcases Arne Ferner's skills as a guitarist and his ability to alter pace and dynamics within a composition. A moody passage follows, with Breck's smooth sounding flute pulling the quintet behind him as the drums snap and crackle.
What sets Flux apart from other groups is a lack of climax to the compositions. It's not that the tunes fail to resolve themselves, but there is little grandstanding here. The tunes build nicely and are just as carefully deconstructed, as on "And How to Heal the Upper Nest," which dissolves quietly with just a repeated bass note to accompany the minimal piano.
The fast-paced "Trance and Dental" features tight unison playing between guitar and flute, bristling drumming, and a jaunty piano cameo. Arne Ferner takes an adventurous extended solo before handing over to Breck, who likewise does not hold back.
The music on Peninsulator balances dynamism, as on the post-bop "The Black Sheep of Changing the Subject," and lyricism, as on the solo piano piece, "Peninsulator," which has the brevity and solemnity of a slow Chopin prelude, though with more gravity.
Elsewhere, Linnert's lines bring a gently flowing lyricism to "Descent of the Cosmic Bullfrog." Thorn's bowed bass intro and subsequent solo, an exhibition of refinement and taste, are highlights of a beautiful composition.
There is a playful swing and mischievous tinkering on "These Are the Pixie Graveyards" before a heavy bass kick-starts things, setting the flute off on a meandering path whose intensity waxes and wanes.
The balladic "Sight" closes a seductive recording where compositional strength and impressive musicianship combine to leave a lasting impression.
Track Listing: Albino African Endangered Rhino; How to Greet the Big Cheese; Peninsulator; Forget It, It's Chinatown; And How to Heal the Upper Nest; Trance and Dental; Descent of the Cosmic Bullfrog; These are the Pixie Graveyards; The Black Sheep of Changing the Subject; Sight.
Personnel: Per Arne Ferner: guitar; Mikkel Breck: flute; Simon Linnert: piano; Marc Lohr: drums, percussion; Jesper Thorn: double-bass.