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Monday, September 10, 2018

BROM - Cardboard Sea (Tiger Moon Records, 2018) ***½

By Martin Schray

When you write about music you might know this: You’ve purchased an album and listened to it. You like it, yes, but then again, it doesn’t blow you away either. You listen to it casually, while you’re cooking or while driving. It’s nice, okay, but it’s difficult to write about. In fact, you don’t even find a starting point and in general you don’t want to sound too pathetic and repeat the same worn out phrases like “great interplay“, “surprising and unpredictable sounds“, “exploring new fields of music“, “unsettling dynamics“, “attentive and exploratory music“ etc. The whole shebang.

However, what it sometimes just needs is the right moment. The day before I wrote this review I came home very late from a jazz festival. I had to get up early, dragged myself through the day, drowsy, feeling hungover although I had no alcohol the day before. It was a full moon night, the city was numb after weeks of unusual heat and drought. I couldn’t sleep. I’d finished half a bottle of rosé wine and listened to BROM’s Cardboard Sea again, and all of a sudden the beauty of the music struck me.

BROM consists of Alexander Beierbach (tenor saxophone), Jan Roder (double bass) and Christian Marien (drums), all part of the flourishing Berlin jazz scene. Under this moniker they’ve released their debut in 2013. Mainly known as the leader of the exciting Absolutely Sweet Marie project (dedicated to the music of Bob Dylan), Beierbach has a more introspective side, though. BROM establishes him as a subtle melodist and mood-setter. Even if this line-up can be very brittle, his horn is rather elegiac here, as on “Chestnut“, or quizzical, as on the winding “Skizze #5“. What never falters is the freshness of his compositions. For this, he’s assisted by his distinguished company. Drummer Christian Marien is a master of small gestures (something he has already proved in his outstanding duo Superimpose with trombonist Matthias Müller), capable of painting a canvas with well-measured prickling on his snare. And Jan Roder reinforces his reputation as Germany’s best walking bassist (something you can check on JR3 and with Monk’s Casino).

My favorite track on this album is “Chasing Chimes/Joker & Thief“. In the center there’s a motif which is introduced by saxophone and bass in unison before a cautious improvisation is carved out. The piece almost gets lost when the bass drops out and the drums abandon any rhythmic framework, instead they’re just hissing around. This pattern is repeated in the second part of the piece as well, until the bass brings the music together. Beierbach’s composed parts serve as a basis for expansive gestures, however the improvisational reactions remain pleasantly down-to-earth beyond affected mannerism. A very atmospheric album that matures the more you listen to it.

Listen to BROM here:

You can buy the record on the label’s website: