Israeli ex-pat Asaf Sirkis has been gradually insinuating himself into the UK scene since moving to London in 1999. His most visible work to date has been with the controversial saxophonist Gilad Atzmon's Oriental House Ensemble where, in addition to playing drums, he's been able to take advantage of his background in ethnic percussion instruments. His broad orchestral approach to kit and hand percussion may, however, be best heard on woodwind multi-instrumentalist Tim Garland's sweeping and ambitious If the Sea Replied
Hearing Sirkis' work on the Middle Eastern-Coltrane fusion of Atzmon's band and the classically informed open-mindedness of Garland's Lighthouse project does nothing to prepare you for the dark energy of his own group, Asaf Sirkis & The Inner Noise. We Are Falling is the keyboards/guitar/drums trio's second release, and it's a strange amalgam of influences that's best described as fusionbut in many ways coming from such unexpected places that the application of conventional labels is pointless.
Steve Lodder, while credited with synthesizer, tends to favour an organ tone that's closer to church than Hammond. The brooding but lightly textured "Another Being feels like a strange confluence of Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal's melancholy Descendre (ECM, 1980), Carla Bley's harmonic specificity, and a certain Messiaen-like density. Guitarist Mike Outram, who's made some fine records in recent years with Martin Speakein particular the alto saxophonist's imaginative look at Charlie Parker (Jazzizit, 2005)is a broadly versed player who sounds like a young Mick Goodrick on "Another Being, but he kicks in the distortion and references a more restrained Allan Holdsworth on the gothic-sounding title track.
Elsewhere the trio comes across like a 21st Century version of Tony Williams' Lifetime, in particular on "Life Itself, where Sirkis demonstrates the same kind of power and polyrhythmic facility that Williams did. He solos with maelstrom-like intent over Lodder's 7/8 bass pattern until a lean but opaque theme emerges and sets the harmonic context for Outram's wah wah-driven solo, which emphasizes texture as much as linear development.
The European references to abstruse contemporary classicism and a most remote tip of the hat to progressive bands like Soft Machine and National Health help give the trio its unique complexion. It can be a sheer force of nature, as on the title track, but is also paradoxical on "Spirit, where Outram's acoustic guitar intro completely misdirects the listener, leaving one completely unprepared for the Zawinul-like groove that follows. This sets up an anarchistic duet between Lodder and Sirkis that eventually pulls Outram back in, finally making sense of it all.
The trio is also capable of calmer vistas, but despite the gentler nature of "Galactic Citizen (Part 2) and "Ida & Dactyl, Sirkis still leans towards an ambiguous and brooding atmosphere, though it has a curious beauty if you look hard enough.
While hardly optimistic, We are Falling is nevertheless uniquely compelling, inexorably drawing the listener into Sirkis' opaque and foreboding musical landscape.
Visit Asaf Sirkis on the web.
Personnel: Asaf Sirkis: drums, keyboards (3, 8); Steve Lodder: synthesizer, piano (9); Mike Outram: electric guitar, acoustic guitar (7).