Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ingrid Laubrock's Sleepthief - The Madness of Crowds (Intakt, 2011) ****

 By Paul Acquaro

It took me a couple spins to warm up to Ingrid Laubrock's Sleeptheif's latest offering "The Madness of Crowds". At first the minimalist grooves on the opening "Extraordinary Popular Delusions" didn't quite click. However, I think it was because I was trying too hard. I was listening and trying to make up words about the music, I was not letting the music just speak for itself. So, I'm glad I finally relaxed and listened.

The album does start quietly, prepared piano's arpeggiated riffs ricochet off percussive clatters. Laubrock's sax comes in at opportune times, leaving a trail of notes and scattered phrases. By the second tune the phrases are longer and more cohesive and the group's sound begins to coalesce. It is still quiet, with the pianist often stroking the strings inside the piano and the drums applying accents and textures.

At some point, the sounds becomes denser, with the piano playing more lush chords below the saxophones thick melodies. The sonic density increases as the songs progress, Laubrocks' rich tone intertwines with Liam Noble's piano, while Tom Rainey's drums prod and punctuate. By the tunes "Does Your Mother Know You're Out?" and "Tulipmania" things are in full swing and it's a clattering affair, awash with energy.

Luckily for those of us with downloaded versions, Harry Lachner's liner notes for the album are generously provided by Intakt Records (I really wish all the labels did this). Here is where I learned that the song titles as well as the album's title are drawn from the book "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds." From a review on Amazon we get a little insight into the material: "Charles Mackay's highly recommended 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds' was first published in 1841 and studies the psychology of crowds and mass mania throughout history. Mackay included accounts of classic scams, grand-scale madness, and deceptions. Some of these include the Mississippi scheme that swept France in 1720, the South Sea bubble that ruined thousands in England at the same time, and the tulip mania of Holland when fortunes were made and lost on single tulip bulbs."

Seems like pretty intriguing material and perhaps a helpful guide to our own interesting times. Laubrock's previous Sleepthief album received an review on the site a few years ago, and I think that this new album certainly corroborates the enthusiasm that was expressed then. This excellent group's interplay is intriguing and interesting. I'm glad I took the time to really listen.

© Paul Acquaro



Richard said...

I agree completely about linear notes. I consider the liner notes an important part of the album, and the only real drawback of buying through Emusic or Itunes is the lack of notes. But it is a big drawback in my book.

All of the labels which produce this kind of music should be putting the notes on their site.
It's also great advertising.

I guess I missed the original Sleepthief review. This sounds like something I would like.

And Tom Rainey on an album is always a good sign.

Unknown said...

This album does start slowly, with some piano effects that are distracting, but I agree it's worth the effort. It gets stronger as the album progresses. For the record, I don't think the song "Does Your Mother Know You're Out?" is the same as the ABBA tune, but I need to listen again...


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