A European label like Nemu has the flexibility to present performers based both close by and across the pond. The only requirement, crucial for a new label, is a shared aesthetic. Not music that all sounds the same, but accomplishes similar things. Carnival Skin is a quintet of Americans except for German drummer Klaus Kugel, who is one of four Europeans in the Syntopia Quartet. Both albums are compelling, feature unusual front lines and highlight the often drastic differences between American and European jazz that no one usually wants to admit.
Carnival Skin is led by the clarinet of Perry Robinson and the trumpets of Peter Evans. Don't expect tradition though. Bruce Eisenbeil's dissonant guitar is the main mover across the six tracks. Syntopia is propelled by violin and clarinet, supported by rhythm section. Whereas Carnival is brash and outgoing, Syntopia works in a classically-inspired realm, subtle and and introverted. And as the volume of Carnival's drums and guitar forces the clarinet and trumpet into playing louder than usual, Syntopia's delicacy requires understatement from its rhythm section. The best part of each album is when Carnival achieves Syntopia-like calm and when Syntopia has Carnival-like fits and appreciating how differently each group comes to those points, the beginnings of a wonderful Nemu aesthetic.