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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ensemble X - Metaimprovisor (Red Toucan, 2012) ****½

Posted by Joe

It's not often that you get one of these on the Free Jazz blog! Real improvised music with people listening, no egos, no soloists, just like in the old days! My first statements might seem a little ridiculous, but they're not meant to be. I notice that today we seem to - luckily - be developing an improvised music scene made up of groups that have lead identities, and nothing wrong with that. Gustafsson, Brötzmann, Vandermark, Halvorson, Wooley, Laubrock etc, names that lead and could be called soloists if needs be. However, some forms of improvised music work on the idea of cooperative improvisation, ensemble work. Groups such as London Improvisers Orchestra and ICP are rare to see out on the road, probably due to logistics? Well, NFS Ensemble X is another of these large groups consisting of 19 musicians put together and led by Carl Ludwig Hübsch, a name (sorry to say) I'm not familiar with. You can read more about the circumstances for putting this ensemble together and a little background here and the full list of musicians.

If you bought or heard - back in 2011 - the Futon Quartet after reading Stef's reaction to the album, then this album may also speak to you. It is music which is very, very detailed, and extremely delicate in texture, in fact with so many musicians it's like wondering how so many elephants can tiptoe around without breaking anything! Each improvisation (4 in all) is a delicate canvas of sound and colour, not unlike a minimalist or abstract painting, maybe resembling such modern canvases as Pollock, Rothko or a Tobey. Splurges of sound, seemingly endless blurred blocks of sound colour blend together giving the pieces great depth.The pieces are titled X113, X8, X112 and X111 which also gives them a sense of abstract impressionism, leaving the listener to hear what they wish within these massive structures. There are no soloists sticking out of the music, giving an impression of a blanket of sound. The dynamics in each of the pieces can change unexpectedly, swelling up from time to time like a storm brooding which passes over you leaving a calm but mysterious unresolved mist of sound. The music's wild open landscapes conjure up strange images, full of half seen or imagined images.    

The key to this music, and what makes (or brakes) it is that 'Ensemble X' really listens to each other, which is essential to this type of music, and maybe something rather lacking in our present-day society? Each player must hear what the other is saying before making a contribution, absolutely sure what is needed, a truly egalitarian approach.

Highly recommended for all who like details in music, and for those who enjoy chamber ensembles, a rare thing in the present financial climate unfortunately.

*= Carl Ludwig Hübsch does of course feature on our blog elsewhere, unfortunately I hadn't heard any of his previous work. Of course now I'm very curious and will certainly be check up to see/hear what I've been missing.      

© stef