When eyeing the triptych oil painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Renaissance painter Hieronymous Bosch, the observer often drifts off and zooms in on a very specific segment of the painting. Defined by opposing themes and motifs, the eye wanders from left to right, from Adam and Eve in peaceful nature, over birds and buildings and gatherings of people, until all hell breaks loose on the right panel which, coincidentally, carries the unofficial title "Musical Hell." Much like the paintingwhich evidently served as Portuguese double bassist André Carvalho's main source of inspiration for this albumthe pieces on Carvalho's third outing as a leader work as bits of a puzzle; together they form another complete painting filled with dichotomyexpressed here by confronting the approaches of composition and improvisation, structure and chaos, loudness and reserve. This time around, however, it isn't the eyes but the ears that do the observing.
The album opens with "Prelude," introducing the core sextet which colorfully works its way towards a transcendent crescendo. Guitarist Andre Matos adds a shimmering harmonic frame. The lucid and tremolo-heavy guitar tone accompanies the marching of bass and drums along the lines of which saxophones and trumpet swirl and curl. "The Fools of Venus" follows with a much more ill-tempered attitude, creating the first of many direct contrasts the album is packed full of.
No song here resembles another, making the record highly versatile in style and sound. Yet a sense of concept remains intact throughout, deriving not only from the steady instrumentation and sonic treatment but also the prevailing bass and drum conversations, which are tightly intertwined. "Cherries, Brambies and Strawberries" is one of the tightest and most traditional compositions on the record, and demonstrates this interplay most directly. The guitar transforms the two into a trio, while saxophones play an ornamental role.
"Evil Parade" is another standout and evokes a neo-western soundscape, due among other things to the rhythmical chord strokes that are drenched in reverb. The Latin-tinged melody lines are fittingly exercised by saxophone and trumpet, and give this piece of rock-and-roll music a feverish imperative that ends in cacophonic disaster. Some of the ambient noise-exercises, such as "The Thinker in the Tavern," seem kind of redundant on their own but have their rightful place within the concept and serve as dynamic interludes.
The Garden Of Earthly Delights is an ambitious recording by a visionary musician who has surrounded himself with like-minded peers for an hour of extravagant fun that carries energy outward as much as it reflects inward.
Track Listing: Prelude; The Fools Of Venus; The Fountain; Dracaena Draco; Of Mermaids And Mermen; Cherries, Brambles
And Strawberries; The Towers Of Eden; Evil Parade; The Thinker In The Tavern; The Forlorn Mill; Phowa
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