The big city is a place of wonder and estrangement. It has its own pulse and sound. Individuals disappear into crowds, and yet the city is also the scene of individual freedom, a potential theatre of endless roles and masks which are carried with conviction as people move through a technological landscape that seems to change all the time.
The complex identity of the city is captured musically on Nexus, the debut from the Swedish six-piece ensemble Soundscape Orchestra. Their ambitions are high with cover art provided by artist Per Josephson. His picture of a dynamic cityscape caught between technological abstraction and figurative detail fits the music perfectly as the music moves between organic grooves and mechanical manipulations and beats. Swirling flutes and chiming vibraphones intertwine with a bumpy bass riff and lively percussion on "Khumbu," while "Wicked Waltz" picks up speed with a swinging rhythm and a clarinet dance in Klezmer-style patterns broken by a Rhodes solo and robot-bleeps. It's both old-school and futuristically funky.
Thomas Wingren is the man behind the rhythms; he mixes percussion and programming in a complex tapestry but, with the support of bassist Robert Erlandsson and drummer Calle Rasmusson, he never loses track of a bodily groove. There's a slow lounge-feeling to "Bells" with a flute motif provided by Peter Fredman and Anders Astrand's splashes of vibraphone. Surprisingly, it all ends in an electronic funk-fest with Adam Forkelid spacing out on keyboards and synths.
No matter what they do, the musicians keep a perfect balance between soundscapes and contemporary grooves. It's possible to hear the heritage from Weather Report and electric Miles, but Soundscape Orchestra bring new elements from electronic music, lounge and R&B into the mix and, in the process, they create an urban fusion sound for the 21st century.
Thomas Wingren: live electronics, percussion, programming; Adam Forkelid: keyboards, additional synths; Anders Åstrand:
vibraphone; Peter Fredman: soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute; Calle Rasmusson: drums.