Saturday, January 07, 2017

Ken Vandermark and Lasse Marhaug - Close Up (For Abbas Kiarostami) (Catalytic Sound, 2016)

Reed player and composer Ken Vandermark is a relentless and courageous musical explorer, and this album may be one of his most experimental albums yet. It is a duet performance, playing one forty minute improvisation, “Close Up (For Abbas Kiarostami)”, and he is performing with Lasse Marhaug on electronics, recorded live in Oslo in May of 2016. Abbas Kiarostami was an Iranian filmmaker, and his work deeply influenced Vandermark who is both a cinephile and film scholar. The music is a torrid free improvisation, with Vandermark using saxophones and clarinet and Marhaug using a battery electronics to challenge and explore. Vandermark’s playing is appropriately raw and powerful, bursting peals of wounded sound that engages and embraces the electronics, taking the music in unexpected directions. The music weaves dynamically through sections of ominous abstractions and epic blowouts. Both musicians show a great deal of stamina, while improvising and creating the music in real time, reacting to one another and pushing the boundaries of their respective instruments. Their creation goes beyond the bounds of music and develops the ideas of painting or sculpting with sound or in this case perhaps trying to present an aural cinematic experience, an improvised film of their soundworld at this time and place which creates a powerful emotional response. Blocks of electronics and sheer sound met by the reed instruments sound like the transmission of an alien civilization, calling out into the void. There is a strong sense of motion in their collaborative improvisation, bursts of pure noise and lines of music that intertwine at an almost molecular level. The electronics have a gritty distortion which aggressively grates on the music and using the electronics in very different ways, laying down a sonic foundation for Vandermark in improvise over or moving in the opposite direction. This music is tremendously exciting and almost overpowering, fans of adventurous music would do well to check it out. Close Up (For Abbas Kiarostami) - Bandcamp.

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