The Amsterdam-based sextet Spinifexwell known for their passion to cross stylistic borders, tight irregular structures and robust improvisational eruptionsstill continue their journey through different musical traditions. On their fifth full-length album, Soufifex
, the ensemble flee the European musical tradition and turn their faces to the Oriental world, i.e. to the Sufi, mystical Islamic belief and practice in which Muslims seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God, a musical heritage which is based upon the 24-tone equal temperament instead of 12-tone Western tradition.
As a rule, most bands, seeking the amalgam of jazz and Oriental music, include traditional instruments (e.g. some sorts of plucked lutes or zithers) and often have members who originated from the particular region in their line-ups. Just remember legendary Lloyd Miller and his idiosyncratic combination of Eastern and Western musical worlds, Egyptian Sufi jazz band Eftekasat or multinational project Shezar. But Spinifex has chosen a different way; by refusing to use traditional instruments, the ensemble members take theoretical patterns of the Sufi music and put them in a free jazz/rock form.
The band's members composed four of the seven compositions. The oriental tonal system can be recognized immediately, especially if the listener focusses on reeds and their repetitive patterns. Reeds enhance the feeling of the Sufi tradition the most.
The exception is the track "Marifa," composed by the ensemble's bassist Gonçalo Almeida; strict structure and no improvisation parts distinguish this composition from the rest of the album. Moreover, the general mood and sound of "Marifa" noticeably gravitate closer to the Oriental tradition and, compared to the rest, go further from Western patterns. Let us say, this particular track is somehow a mark of a shifting sonic aesthetic. And what is more, trumpeter Bart Maris
and his playing in a higher register, and Eastern modal scales played by soprano saxophonist Tobias Klein
, make this track more adorable. But it is not merely Maris and Klein who are responsible for more Oriental influxes; a repetitive rhythmic section and drone-like bass line embrace the listener with a meditative Sufi mood as well.
Two compositions,"Zarbi Owj" and "Dikri"the first composed by Persian classical musician Mohammad Reza Lotfi and the second traditionalwere rearranged and sound distinctively different, compared to the original versions, but the backbone based on Eastern musical tradition is still in place, especially on "Zarbi Owj."
In general, this Spinifex opus is an ambitious one and has catchy parts, but somewhere in the middle of Soufifex
a grain of boredom appears. The reasons why are predictable structures (theme/improvisation/theme etc.) and bland reeds parts. It is not clear whether changes in the proportion of European and Oriental traditions would help, but, presumably, less jazz/rock and more Sufi sounds (tracks like "Marifa" and "Zarbi Owj") could help make this album more attractive and listenable.
By the way, the mastering of Soufifex
cannot be considered the strongest side of the record. Emphasis on highs, lack of mids and compressed bass rasp listener's ears and steal the joy of rich sound.
Tobias Klein: alto saxophone; Gonçalo Almeida: bass; Philip Moser: drums; Jasper Stadhouders: guitar; John Dikeman: tenor saxophone; Bart Maris: trumpet