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Album Review

Chris Mapp: Gonimoblast Live

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Chris Mapp: Gonimoblast Live
Bassist/composer Chris Mapp leads the British electronic and jazz-inspired improvising collective Gonimoblast. This double-disc release taken from 2015 live recordings in Birmingham feature two guest musicians from the Norwegian improvisation scene that influenced their approach: Maja S.K. Ratkje (voice & electronics) on Disc One; Arve Henriksen (trumpet, electronics, & voice) on Disc Two. In addition to being one of the most recognizable names in Norwegian improvisation, Henriksen's group Supersilent was a major inspiration for the formation of this band.

The goal was simply to get musicians together to explore improvisation with electronics. The core group is Mapp (bass and electronics), Leafcutter John (electronics), Dan Nicholls (keyboards and synthesizers), and drummer/percussionist Mark Sanders (who spends most of his time contributing textures rather than keeping time)—the only player not contributing electronics to the sound. They take a generally minimalist, ambient approach.

But Disc One has plenty of interesting details: the almost Spaghetti Western-sounding whistling on Part I; the skittering electronics in Part III; and the insistent rhythmic looping in Part IV, for example. Ratkje's vocals first become audible in Part II, but they are electronically processed in such a way that they blend into the rest of the texture. Concluding Part VI features some lyrical singing (accompanying herself via looping), but it builds to a thunderous climax.

Henriksen's trumpet makes its entrance during Part I on Disc Two, a lyrical contrast to the electronics underneath it which morphs into a looped electronic presence. Part II features his vocals, as does Part IV (employing that angelic falsetto sound, looped with itself). Part V goes heavily into Jon Hassell world music territory, with looped trumpets that could be heard as an homage—a lovely, unexpected musical event. The Hassell sound continues into Part VI in the form of electronically harmonized trumpet. Henriksen also takes his most lyrical trumpet solo in the set, accompanied only by sparse electronics. There's another section with electronically treated trumpet, then the set concludes with beautiful falsetto vocalise.

Gonimoblast has been performing together for several years, and have developed a rich ensemble sound in which it is often difficult to hear where one musician ends and another begins. The group is elevated by these Norwegian guests: the album is especially recommended to Arve Henriksen fans. The double CD albums feature original artwork by artist Tom Tebby, with each individual album screen-printed, hand painted by the artist and assembled by hand. It's a striking package, an art object in its own right.

Track Listing

Disc I: Parts I - VI; Disc II: Parts I - VI.

Personnel

Leafcutter John: electronics, light interface, music box, vocals; Chris Mapp: bass, electronics; Dan Nicholls: keys, synths; Mark Sanders: drums, cymbals, percussion. With Maja S.K. Ratkje: voice, electronics, oscillator and things (Disc 1); Arve Henriksen: trumpet, pocket trumpet, vocals, electronics (Disc 2)

Album information

Title: Gonimoblast Live | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Stoney Lane Records

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