Having been a fan of "Food", the Anglo-Norwegian band since its first album, I was appreciative of "Quiet Inlet", their previous album on ECM, reduced to the core members of Iain Ballamy on saxes and Thomas Strønen on drums and electronics, with some guest musicians added.
For "Mercurial Balm", they keep the same concept, now with - on a number of tracks, guest musicians Christian Fennesz and Eivind Aarset on guitar, Nils Petter Molvaer on trumpet and Prakash Sontakke on vocals and slide guitar.
As you can expect, the music is calm "nu jazz" with long and stretched soundscapes over which the horns play their meditative melancholy melodies, music for dreaming away with eyes closed. And it's probably fine for a few listens, but even then most tracks have this high level of predictability and lack of dynamics or tension that are needed for repeated discovery.
Prakash Sontakke's vocals are more of the long moaning kind rather than the rhythmic carnatic singing, but beautiful though yet with a really limited presence on the album.
In all, one can wonder what this album adds to the Food catalogue, as they seem to have less to tell than before, even with the expanded line-up, or to use a bad metaphor : without substance, Food becomes a consommé.