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Saturday, September 19, 2009

EAR&NOW - Eclipse (Wallace Records, 2009) ****½

The great thing about music is that its inherent possibilities for novelty are absolutely endless. Yet rare are those who manage to create something entirely new, perplexing the audience, wrongfooting the listener, while maintaining an element of the listenable and the enjoyable. This album clearly falls within that category, and is beyond classification in terms of genre or style, let's call it avant-garde for lack of a better word. EAR&NOW is an Italian "band", sounding more like a project, with varying line-ups on this record, with Alberto Morelli on hammond organ, rhodes piano, bendir, khan, harmonium, electric bass, acoustic guitar, rolling coins on percussion, treatments, piffero, whistle, mouth organ, bow vibraphone, tibetan bells, mouth harp, bow dotara with sympathetic strings, Paolo Cantu' on electric guitar, clarinet, whistle, and farfisa organ, Xabier Iriondo on electric guitar, treatments, mahai metak, autoharp, and taisho koto. These three men seem to form the nucleus of the group. They are assisted by another list of musicians, with especially soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo as possibly the best known guest, next to Federico Cumar on trombone, Roberto Mazza on oboe, Federico Sanesi on tabla, Cristian Calcagnile on drums, Stefano Stefani on voice. The instrumentation already indicates that you're in for something special, with unusual combinations of old and new, of the familiar with the uncanny, keeping a light touch of opening new musical horizons.

One of the most noteworthy moments of the album is the integration of a field recording from 1969 of a song by then 75-year old Rosa Corn, one of the last traditional singers of the Valle dei Moccheni in Trento, Italy.

Although the different tracks vary quite substantially in style, ranging from folk, far eastern meditative influences, soundtrack elements, electronics, avant-garde jazz to the days of the early Soft Machine, yet it all fits well in the overall concept, and adding a sound sample of the music will not do it justice: it's the variation, the broad scope and focused approach of a combined intimacy, spirituality, weirdness, lyricism and musical drive, that makes the overall effect rather unique. Impressive result.

© stef