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Poolplayers: Way Below The Surface

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As its title suggests, the hour of music comprised in the Poolplayers' Way Below The Surface has listeners journey to some remote, foreign places. And, as the remotest places often prove inhospitable—if not for the rare thrill seekers—a certain amount of effort and discomfort is required to "get there."

An experimental/avant-jazz/electronic effort between pianist Benoit Delbecq, drummer Lars Juul, trumpeter Arve Henriksen and sound sculptor Steve Arguelles, the Way Below The Surface project somewhat draws analogy to a greenhouse-grown ecosystem. Free of any guiding melodic, harmonic and rhythmic substrates, the multifarious array of sounds and timbres conjured by the coterie's colloquy hardly pollinates outside the microcosm. In clear, the music feels hermetic and austere. To illustrate this, one would use the image of four scientists hunched over laboratory instruments busily mixing secret concoctions, but without any clear idea of what it is they are looking for, and inadvertently restricting access through insider dialectics and parlance.

There are communicative tracks here though. Of those, the oddly titled "Polylectic" exemplifies the group's rather peculiar approach. Starting minimalistically with aleatory, nondescript tones bubbling above trembling tom-toms rustles, the track then builds into a billowing bass/piano and drums duel, in which the bass (played by the pianist on a "bass station") drops out and reappears sporadically, thus creating neat changes in textures.

Clocking out at more than eleven minutes, "Time Makes The Tune" is the album's piece de resistance. Juul's verbose playing notwithstanding, the piece features Henriksen's falsetto vocals and instantly-recognizable, almost electric violin-like tone in an opus of electronically-processed effects and tinctures.

Interspersed between these two longer pieces, the short "A Triple Of Keys" also holds attention. The simple theme—which is repeated ad nauseam by Delbecq and manipulated "live" by one of his acolytes—creates a neat interlude where one finds himself ironically as if landing on the moon, battling weightlessness.

Despite the repeated listenings needed for this record to reveal itself, one is left wondering what is being said here and what is the story? And, maybe more importantly, where is the feeling? That said, the Poolplayers do arrive at setting a not-at-all displeasing slow and atmospheric mood to their explorations, and that might be enough to please those willing to partake in this kind of outback adventure.

Track Listing: Beneath the Undercurrent; A Rumoured Version of Ourselves; Two Fold; Bob Whites; Time Makes the Tune; A Triple of Keys; Polylectic; Noded Disnoded; Luz.

Personnel: Arve Henriksen: trumpet, vocals, electronics; Beno

Title: Way Below The Surface | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings


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