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Lena Circus with Itaru Oki: Zanshin

Karl Ackermann By

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Guitarist Antoine Letellier and guitarist/reed player Nicolas Moulin formed Lena Circus as a duo in 1999 and the pair produced nine recordings that were marketed primarily in France. Expanding to a trio formation with percussionist Guillaume Arbonville in 2003 they released a prolific ten albums by 2012. Mid-way through that decade, the group began to add one-off guests to the lineup, often in non-conventional roles such as "amplified voice," zither and ukulele. On Zanshin the trio is joined by Japanese born Itaru Oki on trumpet and flugelhorn.

The electric guitar-heavy component in which Letellier and Moulin frequently revel is at a minimum on Zanshin though their experimental and fiercely noisy presence dominates "Doomo Doomo," "Dusty" and "Eau Rouge." Lena Circus is not without it's typical quirky elements, such as sampling the nursery rhyme "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" in the midst of a wildly free improvisation of "Misu No Kokoro" or Oki's Miles Davis approximation set to a psychedelic backdrop on "Caravane." On the latter, Oki makes his definitive statement on the album, carrying much of the eleven-plus minute piece with ethereal playing. Arbonville has a standout drum solo here as well and one of the few on the album, other than Oki's. "Like Someone in Love" is a spare duet with Oki and Arbonville outstanding in their sharply focused reading of the piece.

The album closes with "Love For Sale," beginning, again, as a stripped down duo of trumpet and drums but building with the electric hum of Letellier and Moulin and Arbonville aggressively picks up the pace. Oki maintains a constant ethereal presence above the building tension and then the piece simply evaporates into thin air. Oddly, it is Oki—rarely described as an accessible player—who makes Zanshin the most open album of Lena Circus to date. All label-mates on Improvising Beings Records, one would hope for this formation to come back with more based on this very intriguing outing.

Track Listing: Misu No Kokoro; Doomo Doomo; Ou Est Moi; Misu No Kokoro; Caravane; Like Someone In Love; Dusty; Eau Rouge; Love For Sale.

Personnel: Nicolas Moulin: guitar; Antoine Letellier: guitar, reeds; Guillaume Arbonville: drums; Itaru Oki: trumpet.

Title: Zanshin | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Improvised Beings


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