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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mêlée + Joe Morris - Cloud Atlas Quartet (Brokenresearch, 2009) ****½

Mêlée is avant-garde jazz like you've rarely heard it. Released on percussionist Ben Hall's Brokenresearch label, the trio further consists of Hans Buelow on bass and Nate Wooley on trumpet, here joined for the occasion by Joe Morris on guitar. You could call this noise jazz, because there are no discernible patterns and all four musicians play simultaneously almost the whole time, plus there are no moments of pause or relief of tension: you get sound intensity from the very first second till the end of the second side of the LP. Yet it is not noise. I get a lot of CDs by young and upcoming bands who think they have to shock their audience and get attention by going beyond what is bearable, by exaggerating what already exists rather than setting new boundaries, but not so with this band. Despite the unrelenting tension and the permanent sparkling, crackling and bouncing interaction between the four instruments, it has something of a raw attractiveness that is hard to fathom. They don't play to please, but they don't play to shock either. Like with clouds, there are no anchor points, no foothold, no reference: sounds come and go, move and slide one into the other, evaporate, arise somewhere else, moving the whole thing forward with no direction, yet it all is one whole, there is some sort of internal cohesion that sets it apart. There are moments of intimacy, of direct emotional delivery, and moments of stress and distress, of darkness, signs of an upcoming storm. That doesn't come. Only the tension before it. There is no real power either. And no sweetness. It gets you out of your comfort zone. Yet you want to hear it again, and again, and again. And that's usually the only yardstick that counts. A new musical experience.

© stef