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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Para - ParaPhore (Listen Closely, 2014) ***½

By Stef  

I was quite thrilled by this young trio last year, with their debut album "Para-Ligo", and I'm glad to say that they still exist and released their second CD, now performing under the band name 'Para'. The trio are Elena Kakaliagou on French horn, Ingrid Schmoliner on piano and Thomas Stempkowski on bass.

The music is "spontaneously composed" and offers a wide range of approaches, almost like exercises in stylistic possibilities, using and rejecting all genres, from classical over free improv and folk to new music, and what they do is strong, as long as you stay within the framework of the individual piece. These can be dense and agitated ('Zygoptera'), quiet and subdued ('Warten'), playful ('Neda'), mesmerising ('An Messiaen'), frightening ('Stormar'), dark ('Nitsowia'), .... I like most of the tracks because they are inventive, creative and well performed.

But then I listen back to their debut album, and I wonder why the sense of unity of the first album has been lost. Now, it's an album of great improvisations that each stand apart, without any choice being made by the trio to create a strong personal voice. Even if some of the music is daring, it is still far from being a commitment to one single option, one that is uniquely the trio's voice, which goes beyond what you've heard before. They have it in them, for sure, as they demonstrated with the first album. Or, to put it differently, "Para-Ligo", the first album had the ambitions and unity of a symphony, "Paraphore" has the lightness and the variety of string quartets, nice to the ear, but less lasting in impression.