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Food: This Is Not a Miracle

Mark Sullivan By

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British/Norwegian experimental jazz group Food have done something a little different with each album, especially since downsizing from a quartet to the duo of Iain Ballamy and Thomas Strønen (plus guests). For this one they are joined again by Austrian guitarist and electronics player Christian Fennesz—but Strønen has taken the lead. He explains "With Food, it's democracy all the way, as far as Iain and I are concerned, but with this record I had the time and the will and the idea to do more on my own." So the group recorded using his sketches as their guide, and he then radically recast the recorded material.

It's a clear departure from the previous album Mercurial Balm (ECM, 2012) which included additional guests Eivind Aarset, Prakash Sontakke & Nils Petter Molvaer. That release was built around live performance recordings, yet Strønen paradoxically describes this one as "heavier, dryer, connecting more with how we actually sound live." While there is still plenty of Food's characteristic atmospherics, the approach is more rhythmic and percussive— tending almost towards electronica.

Another departure is Strønen's credit as sole composer, in a project that has typically given collective credits. In fact he is also the album's producer: ECM head Manfred Eicher was involved in the mixing and mastering. However edited their playing was, the other players still made significant contributions. Fennesz's atmospheric guitar dominates the opening "First Sorrow." Ballamy's saxophone is first heard on the title track, but it is built around his melody, making the lack of writing credit seem a bit odd. The same is true of several other selections (e.g. "The Concept Of Density," "Sinking Gardens Of Babylon," and "Exposed To Frost").

"Where Dry Desert Ends" features a repeated synthesizer figure that would not be out of place on a Tangerine Dream record, definitely more pop-sounding than usual. But the longest track, "Earthly Carriage" is built around a hypnotic loop. "The Grain Mill" employs a catchy melody that sounds like it's being played on a celeste, over rumbling guitar. The closing "Without The Laws" fittingly combines all of the elements: percussion, big guitar chords and searching saxophone.

Food: expect the unexpected. Strønen's production process distills the band's improvisational flights into compact pieces—not quite conventional tunes, but almost.

Track Listing: First Sorrow; Where Dry Desert Ends; This Is Not A Miracle; The Concept Of Density; Sinking Gardens Of Babylon; Death Of Niger; Exposed To Frost; Earthly Carriage; Age Of Innocence; The Grain Mill; Without The Laws.

Personnel: Thomas Strønen: drums, electronics, percussion, Moog, Fender Rhodes; Iain Ballamy: saxophones, electronics; Christian Fennesz: guitar, electronics.

Title: This Is Not a Miracle | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: ECM Records


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