Aparis: Despite the fire-fighters’ efforts… (ECM 1496)

Aparis
Despite the fire fighters’ efforts…

Markus Stockhausen trumpets, fluegelhorn
Simon Stockhausen keyboards, soprano saxophone
Jo Thönes acoustic and electronic drums
Recorded July 1992 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Aparis

Three years after a self-titled debut, the trio known as Aparis set out for its second of two albums for ECM. Much of the sweep of the first can be found slithering throughout Despite the fire-fighters’ efforts…, only here trumpeter Markus Stockhausen’s lines swim eel-like in an even deeper ocean of electronics, courtesy of brother Simon (who also plays soprano sax). Drummer Jo Thönes is gorgeously present at key moments, as in the high-octane intensity that concludes the opening track, “Sunrice.” Before this we are surrounded by dawn-drenched ruins. We see a hilly landscape licked bare by a forest of orange tongues. A sequencer describes the tragedy with shape-shifting rhetoric, opening like the rainbow bridge to Valhalla. A flanged voice spreads its song over the ashen fields and brings with it the promise of new sustenance before closing its eyes amid the drone and swizzle of cymbals. With the tastes of this 13-minute paean still lingering on the tongue, we pass through the botanical portal of “Waveterms.” This scurrying and colorful portrait of the forest floor eases us into “Welcome,” which drops a liquid soprano into a laid-back and sultry groove, night music for the Blade Runner demimonde. The call of sirens oozes from the city’s skin like plasma in search of closure. Trumpet joins soprano in chorus, as if bonding to the truth of reality, in which swims the slippery little fish of our alienation from hands that were never designed to grasp it. From trickle to flood, this music pairs shadows and swords of light in an epic masquerade, paling at last into “Fire.” The jazziest grape on this vine, it recalls the classic strains of ECM’s heyday, modish synth and all. The electronics do take a more environmentally sound position, however, in “Green Piece.” Markus’s precise underlining gives weight to the fleeting and imprints the biodiversity of “Orange,” in which Simon’s keyboards achieve operatic ecstasy. Last is “Hannibal,” which runs through ages of underbrush like the pads of a dreaming dog. Markus’s mournful song carries across burning trees and anthemic drumming with the conviction of a fantasy made real, drunk out of sight like fresh water from a spring.

In this soundscape we are but eyes on the walls, blinking into the glare of a solar heart. It is a light show of the mind, a sonic doily laced into radial perfection. If, by the album’s conclusion, its title is not clear, we need only listen again.

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