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Michele Rabbia/Gianluca Petrella/Eivind Aarset: Lost River

Mark Sullivan By

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The ECM catalog includes a broad range of musical genres: the only things they have in common are a forward outlook and excellent musicianship. But there are some that are truly beyond category, and this largely improvised album is one of them. Italian percussionist Michele Rabbia, Italian trombonist Gianluca Petrella and Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset came together at producer Manfred Eichers suggestion. Rabbia and Aarset have played many duo concerts, and Rabbia has also worked with Petrella in other contexts, but this recording is their premier as a trio. In addition to their open-minded approach to improvisation, all three share an interest in expanding their sonic possibilities with electronics.

The titles are all concerned with water. "Nimbus" (a rain cloud) opens the set with atmospheric percussion, the trombone playing a plaintive melody (Petrella often plays a lead role here similar to trumpeters Arve Henriksen and Nils Petter Molvaer on earlier ECM recordings). Rabbia adds a light, steady rhythmic pulse, while Aarset builds an abstract background soundscape. "Flood" is all atmosphere, with guitar soundscapes taking the lead for most of the piece, with a swelling climax that dies out slowly. "What Floats Beneath" is credited to Aarset alone, and features the first traditional guitar sounds: gentle strummed chords, over a background that includes sound effects imitating water.

The title tune is an atmospheric three-way conversation between light percussion, swelling guitar, and trombone (sometimes with echo, briefly in conversation with itself). "Night Sea Journey" features trombone with a wah-wah mute, and a long closing electronic soundscape. "Fluvius" (Latin for river or stream) is credited to Rabbia, and is the longest track at over six minutes. Not at all the percussion-oriented song one might expect, it includes a gentle repeated trombone melody, swelling electronics—and no obvious percussion sounds. The program concludes with two brief tracks: "Flotsam" (wreckage of a ship or its cargo floating or washed up by the sea), an atmospheric drum/guitar duet, and "Wadi" (an Arabic term for a dry riverbed that contains water only when heavy rain occurs), an even more atmospheric closer.

Recent improvisational sessions involving these players include Tigran Hamasyan/Arve Henriksen/Eivind Aarset/Jan Bang: Atmosphères (ECM, 2016) and Giovanni Guidi/Gianluca Petrella/Louis Sclavis/Gerald Cleaver: Ida Lupino (ECM, 2016). But both of these have a particular genre emphasis: Armenian music, especially the composer Komitas, colors Atmosphères; modern jazz informs the sound of Ida Lupino. Here there is no stylistic agenda, to enchanting result.

Track Listing: Nimbus; Flood; What Floats Beneath; Lost River; Styx; Night Sea Journey; Fluvius; What The Water Brings; Flotsam; Wadi.

Personnel: Michele Rabbia: drums, electronics; Gianluca Petrella: trombone, sounds; Eivind Aarset: guitar, electronics.

Title: Lost River | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: ECM Records

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