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Syntopia Quartet: Mars

Glenn Astarita By

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This quasi Third Stream/free jazz/chamber jazz offering is the inaugural release from Germany's NEMU Records. With superior sound engineering enhacing the project, the strings-reeds-rhythm unit pursues minimalism, tightly structured thematic forays and adroit improvisational exercises. Many of these works are fabricated upon multi-part time divisions and the band's excellent use of depth and space. The musicians generate sweet tones and diminutive phrasings to complement hearty injections of briskly enacted unison runs.

Violinist Albrecht Maurer's staccato lines atop the musicians' changeable pulses, topped off with moments of wit and whimsy, provide quite a bit of impact. At times the quartet morphs European folk themes into free jazz explorations that are awash with fervently expressed four-way exchanges. On "Tempe Terra, they investigate dark alleys and loosely based twists and turns while also whipping up some turmoil-laden heated circular movements. In addition, clarinetist Claudio Puntin periodically fuses the human element into the music by implementing vocal-like attributes. In other spots, the artists meld abstract world music grooves and spiraling motifs with emphatic soloing. Overall, this impressive record label debut would seemingly preclude more stylistic and somewhat risqué undertakings. Recommended.

Track Listing: Goodbye Earth; Chryse Planitia; Tempe Terra; Elysium Planitia; Valles Mariners; Olympus Mons; Newton Basin; Chasma Boreale; Back to Earth.

Personnel: Albrecht Maurer: violin, gothic fiddle; Claudio Puntin: bassclarinet, clarinet; Dieter Manderscheid: double bass; Klaus Kugel: percussions, sound objects.

Title: Mars | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: NEMU Records

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