Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Mole (Vector Sounds, 2018) ***½

By Eyal Hareuveni

Mole is a new pan-European quartet, arising from the bustling Leeds free-improv scene, who refresh common conceptions about collective improvisation. Mole features four experienced improvisers who opt for the unexpected, the uncanny and the ambiguous. Mole deliberately refutes any attempt to be categorized and consciously infiltrates musical genres through discretion and wit, referencing subtly contemporary music, fiery free jazz and punk rock.

Mole features veteran British drummer Paul Hession, one of the ‘second wave’ of the British free-improvisers who has worked with guitarist Derek Bailey and Norwegian reeds player Frode Gjerstad and American pianist Borah Bergman; Irish, Leeds-based double bass player Dave Kane, founder of the L.I.M.A. (Leeds Improvised Music Association) Orchestra and close collaborator of pianist Matthew Bourne; French sax-player Christophe de Bézenac who has played in the L.I.M.A. Orchestra; and Norwegian, Stavanger-based (Gjerstad’s town) saxophonist Petter Frost Fadnes, who completed his PhD at the University of Leeds and known from the Norwegian Kitchen Orchestra an the British-Norwegian trio The Geordie Approach.
The debut self-titled album of Mole was recorded in Leeds in January and November 2016 and feature ten concise and urgent pieces. The joyful fanfare of the opening piece, Kane’s “Albert” cements the Ayler-ian spirit, but Mole doesn’t dwell on this fiery energy. Frost Fadnes’ “Shifting Boxes“ and “ Winter Song” channels Mole’s bursts of energy into complex and tightly disciplined patterns. De Bézenac’s “Fall in” runs head-on into dance punk stomp. Kane’s sparse “Boiler Ballad” has a touching theme which is developed in Mole’s most peculiar way and Kane’s “Automatic Mat Mat” returns to the Ayler-ian mode, but this time borrows The Thing's massive rhythmic attack. The pieces that are credited to all four musicians highlight Mole as an organic, tight unit. “Birdwatcher” suggests a melancholic, cinematic narrative and stresses the close  interplay of de Bézenac and Frost Fadnes. “Nugget” is a delicate and quiet exploration of pulses and dynamics and “Dur Duh” jumps nervously between shifting rhythmic patterns.
Promising debut.



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