Food: Quiet Inlet (ECM 2163)

Food
Quiet Inlet

Thomas Strønen drums, live-electronics
Iain Ballamy tenor- and soprano saxophones
Nils Petter Molvær trumpet, electronics
Christian Fennesz guitar, electronics
Recorded live in Norway, 2007/08
Produced by Food and Manfred Eicher

The earth is very still, like an infant asleep. Into a quiet inlet, a streamlet is falling. It is singing to the sleeping earth, telling it of the days to come when the great silence shall be broken by the voice of man, and life shall fill alike the darkling wave and the sunlit field.
–T. A. Rickard, “A Story in Stone”

Considering the distinct lyrical path Food has been forging since 1998, it was perhaps only a matter of time before the group would migrate into ECM territory. The guest appearance of Nils Petter Molvær is therefore a no-brainer. Fans of Molvær’s work will feel like they are slowly falling into the Norwegian trumpeter’s waking dreams. The results are an undeniably unique blend of nu jazz sensibilities and ritual melodic power.

“Tobiko” opens with metallic percussion against a cascade of synths and muted beats. A radio dial is tuned, reaching through the airwaves as if for a familiar voice to latch onto. Only then does Ballamy’s sax rise to the surface of this oceanic passage: if our ears are vessels, then here is the dolphin swimming silently alongside them. Before long, live drums make their presence known and lead us out of the fog. Having shown us the way, our guides then recede into the darkness, where light and sonar dare not venture. “Chimaera” is a gentler number. Sax lines continue their passage as percussion and electronics cocoon them with deep thematic threads, free-flowing and heavenly. “Mictyris” is distinguished by Strønen’s intense rhythmic drive, over which we encounter some fantastic electronics that sound as if a sax were being torn apart and rebuilt as a train whistle. Tight drumming, combined with the protracted ambient wash in the background, meshes wonderfully with Ballamy’s constellate reed work. “Becalmed” builds itself around a repetitive leads motif, its aftereffects ever ghostly and omnipresent. Whether intentional or not, this track also contains oblique references to Eleni Karaindrou’s “Parade” from the film Happy Homecoming, Comrade. “Cirrina” and “Dweller” both flow with Molvaer’s distinct sound, seeming to revel in their grace and liberation from formulaic constraints, while “Fathom” ends the album bittersweetly, as if the music were looking into a mirror, unsure of what it sees.

The electro-acoustic sound honed on Quiet Inlet works wonders at every turn. And on that note, it’s inspiring to see a wonderful artist like Fennesz crossing over into the ECM circuit. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come.

(To hear samples of Quiet Inlet, click here.)

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