Sunday, April 6, 2014

Made to Break: Cherchez La Femme (Trost, 2014) **** ½

A Deep Listening Weekend
By Filip 'Booka' Bukrshliev

I would never throw the word noise in the mix when talking about Made to Break. I might try “a fairly modern, electro-acoustic jazz quartet with wider sound affinities than a regular one” but noise… never. Cherchez La Femme is the third Made to Break album, the first recorded inside a conventional studio space. It features the same line-up, the same idea and structure. And it’s like nectar from a beautiful flower, not noise… you schmucks!

As I’ve said, not much has changed from Provoke and Lacerba [Clean Feed / 2013] in terms of the overall approach and structure, but the studio environment does its job quite well and we have the most detailed Made to Break record – sound wise. The quality of the recording is astonishing, and that really contributes for many, many crucial details in the quartet sound to be easily noticeable, and the listener is provided for the first time with the complete picture of the quartet. Not that Provoke and Lacerba are bad records or they are badly recorded (they were in my top-10 list for last year) but since hearing Cherchez La Femme I think that Made to Break is an idea fully realized in the studio space, with the complete sound spectrum and all the high-definition details. Because it’s not the Vandermarkian brute riffing force that is the most important thing in this quartet (although that part of his playing on the record is the most inspired in recent years) it is the overall crazy rollercoaster of dynamics they possess. The seamless transfer from hard-hitting to extremely vulnerable, is not an easy task for it to be captured on tape, especially in a live environment. Here is where Cherchez La Femme shines.

This is the most inspired Vandermark record in recent years. A complete picture and rigorously developed aesthetic, a process that started years back with formations like Spaceways Inc, Powerhouse Sound and more recently – The Frame Quartet. Cristof Kurzmann’s “electronic noise textures and post-processing” is the main gem here. It opens up a whole new world of texture and sound, with almost endless possibilities. He can oscillate between bringing contrast with low rumble in the background, or to process the sound of the saxophone out in the open, and he plays this role wisely – a treat that inspires the rest of the quartet. Vandermark seems to be at ease in this surrounding, with his solos and improvisations being very light-footed to go anywhere.

I perceive it as a futuristic urban soundtrack, with the concrete blocks, the smoke, the glass, the quiet – the loud. It’s overwhelmingly gray in one point, but then in the next one – here comes Mr. Vandermark’s saxophone to bring lightness through the fog. Simply put - there is a whole lot of content through the entire trip from point A to point B in every track on this album, and the replay value is insane.

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