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Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Cellar and Point - Ambit (Cuneiform Records, 2014) ***½

By Chris Haines

OK, so this isn’t Jazz and it certainly isn’t a type of free music.  As part of Cuneiform Records latest set of releases, The Cellar and Point conjure up the sounds of avant-rock and chamber-rock style groups with similarities to bands such as Miriodor and Univers Zero.

Carefully composed pieces containing meticulously arranged musical lines which are rooted in the overall structure of the pieces weave an ornate and, at times, complex texture that is very colourful in sound with the resources of the septet being maximised to this full potential.  Irregular patterns and atonal melodies create interest but there is also a very accessible feel to this album as well.  The piece Arc being a good example of the latter, sounding like a slightly more beefy version of Penguin Cafe Orchestra, whilst Tabletop (a) with it’s heavy guitar, rock drumming and syncopated lines could be mistaken for a piece by the Italian progressive band Yugen.

Whilst it’s clear that the band exhibits a broad range of influences across the genres of avant-garde and experimental music it is interesting to note that the two cover versions on the album both come from the Classical Modernist movement.  Fünf Canons i, op.16 is a rather sombre and dirge-like instrumental re-working of Anton Webern’s composition, whilst György Ligeti’s piano piece Étude XV is treated to a much more sympathetic arrangement.

The Cellar and Point are: Joe Bergen (vibraphone), Christopher Otto (violin), Kevin McFarland (cello), Terrence McManus (electric guitar), Christopher Botta (acoustic guitar & banjo), Rufus Philpot (electric bass), and Joseph Branciforte (drums).

This is an ambitious and well-received debut from the group with much to enjoy.  If you cherish the sounds of the aforementioned avant-rock groups then there should be plenty for you to like about the music contained within Ambit.