Alister Spence Trio With Ed Kuepper: Asteroid Ekosystem

Dan McClenaghan By

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Alister Spence Trio With Ed Kuepper: Asteroid Ekosystem
Australian pianist/keyboardist Alister Spence—with his avant-garde credibility established via free-roaming work with his trio and collaborations with pianist/composer/bandleader Satoko Fujii—takes another let's-see-what-happens exploratory step in a collaboration with guitarist Ed Kuepper on the double CD outing, Asteroid Ekosystems, a sonic trek into the extraterrestrial area of space debris between Mars and Jupiter.

Or not. Maybe the title was tagged on, after the two day recording sessions, after an "off-the-cuff" show in Sydney in March of 2018. Nevertheless, that tag has an allure, and it seems a fitting one with the opening tune, ""Not A Leaf In Any Forestry." The sound can be described as "spacey," a perfect blend of Spence's forward-looking piano trio teamed with German-born and now Australian-based Ed Kuepper, an independent rock guitarist and founder of the proto-rock outfit The Saints, and co-founder of the experimental post-punk group The Laughing Clowns.

So, if we're talking about an ecosystem (here, an Ekosystem) in the asteroids—those sterile chunks of rock circling the Sun in the airless expanse beyond Earth—how does "a leaf in a forest" come into play? Cottonwoods on Ceres? Aspens on Vesta? They come into play via Emily Dickinson (more later), that's how.

But, for now, let's return to the asteroid/outer space thing in terms of sound.

The previously mentioned opener of the two disc set features Kuepper's guitar surging in like a gusting solar wind, blowing through the magnetosphere, making a multi-hued aurora borealis, orchestral in the aural sense, and diaphanous and luminescent visually, the backdrop of the Alister Spence Trio serving as a darker, more solidified horizon, while "A Passing Universe" gives the impression of cosmic rays bouncing off the facets of the icy, metal-veined, non-spherical mini- planets orbiting beyond the fourth planet before soaring away into deeper space in the direction of absolute zero. The tune's title is a line taken from Emily Dickinson's "How Happy Is The Little Stone," words borrowed by Spence for their "gothic tinge," perhaps. Sounds that are certainly unlike anything Ms. Dickinson ever ran across.

"Nature" is unnatural, agitated and highly charged, maybe even dangerous, and, "Caught At All" brings to focus a parallel between these sounds and those of Swiss pianist Nik Bärtsch's ritual groove music, but here plugged into hot electricity, while "Winds Take Forests" suggest not breezes, but rather hurricanes and howling gales against which the heartiest of trees could possibly survive.

Asteroid Ekosystem—Asteroid used as a nod to AST (Alister Spence Trio), and Ekosystem borrowing guitarist Ed Kuepper's initials—is seventy-seven minutes of approachable, modernistic music on two discs. It has an otherworldly cohesion, featuring the "far out there," beyond-Earth's-orbit atmospherics of "Not A Leaf In Any Forest," to the folksy, Bill Frisell-ish "Face Of The Atom," to the extragalactic "The One The Other," to the closing "Silence In the Earth," thirteen minutes of what could serve as a soundtrack to the push and pull of invisible gravitational forces of the Moon, the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn working on the mass of this rocky planet, wrapping up an enchanting set of psychedelic surf music that churns up the mysterious forces of the universe.


Alister Spence: piano; Lloyd Swanton: bass, acoustic; Toby Hall: drums; Ed Kuepper: guitar, electric.

Additional Instrumentation

Alister Spence: piano, percussion.

Album information

Title: Asteroid Ekosystem | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Alister Spence Music

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