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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Fiil Free - Under Overfladen (Fiil Free Records, 2020) ****

By Sammy Stein

Under Overfladen marks pianist and composer Lars Fiil's fifth release under his own name. His first release 'Reconsideration' (2011) has been followed by internationally acclaimed releases with his trio Frit Fald and with the septet Fiil Free, including, in 2016 the impressive ' Everything Is A Translation' . Fiil has also made a name for himself as a sideman in many projects, including the highly popular indie-jazz outfit ́'I Think You’re Awesome'. The Fiil Free Septet includes musicians from across northern Europe.

Under Overfladen begins with slow, harmonised 8 bar phrases, the musicians perfectly attuned to each other, before the atmosphere changes and each musician deviates to explore a little on their own but still in ensemble mode. Later, there is a merging and the ensemble play as one but just for a brief time as the trumpet and saxophone start out a dialogue of their own, under which the rest of the instruments drift in and out, the vibraphone adding a sense of mystery. The last minute is a glorious free for all, yet there is enough harmonic interaction that you understand this is still very much an ensemble - and they are listening so acutely that by the time the drums introduce a dictatorial rhythm, the entire bend is already there, ready to follow so they finish as one.

'Stille Undren' begins with quiet, repeated guitar notes which are layered over by percussive additions, all peaceful and calm. Then sax joins, adding gentle key-related notes with trumpet harmonised. The bass emerges from the background, offering a different tempo and rhythm which contrast with the set tone and leads a disconcertingly juxtaposed section with cymbals, vibraphone, saxophone and trumpet adding calls, responses and interjections. Alarmingly it sounds like a tuning session before the same 4 note riff from the guitar returns and pulls it all back together and the thread is reconnected revealing they never actually lost the plot.

'12-6' is interesting for its rhythmic patterns, which are set up, followed briefly, changed and returned to, each musician adding their own ideas but the ear-catcher here is the piano line, which sets up chords, rivulets of sound tumbling up and down before changing into a melodic line then taking its place as an ensemble instrument again as the others rise around it. A monster of a track and one which needs - and deserves - a few listens. 'Tid' is introduced by the piano and the melody put across the top is sensuous and drawn out. Atmospheric and yet populated with musical ideas, this track is engaging yet also annoying as electronic feedback comes through - assumingly deliberately so. The wonderful, mournful slurred bowing of the bass is incredibly emotive and adds an air of doleful melancholy, particularly when the trumpet joins creating an effect which is so incredibly persuasive, the listener is drained.

'Omvendtom' begins all dirge-like and heavy with a slow marching rhythm, almost like a first line funeral parade, until the percussion introduces rhythms which take the sense of a walking gait away and then the track takes off, developing into a celebration of improvised, joyous devilry which is completely nuts. Suddenly everything drops, the trumpet sings its song and piano supports with erratic chords. Vibraphone joins, gently and the trumpet sighs, gradually increasing the fervour until just after halfway, by which time the drums have added a heavier rhythm, the trumpet is more insistent and warpy and there is a fast 2/4 rhythm going on, creating a sense of running. The rhythm switches down, slowing but the frenetic activity does not, creating something of a madness which is completely joyful and interesting to hear, with a sax solo imbued with insolence and devil may care before the piece closes.
'Largo Con Moto' is a confusion - 'Largo' meaning delivery is slow and controlled whilst 'con moto' means to deliver with motion, speed and action. Here, the trumpet delivers the largo part with a melody; solo at first but then joined little by little by the ensemble but gently, increasing the sonic layers and complexities until by the time the trumpet remembers its serenade towards the end, the listener has been through some very strange sonic episodes. By the finish, there is harmony, as if suddenly, there is a realisation the track has unfolded to release all that was held within.

Lars Fiil is a band leader with an uncanny sense of the off kilter. Under Overfladen, released with his septet, Fiil free follows the success of ' everything Is A Translation' in 2016.

This recording expands on the collective and explorative sound that was launched on their first release. Building on the boundary-seeking behaviour that occurs when you put together some of the most uncompromising improvisers from the European jazz scene. There are six, compositions from Lars and the sounds include whispering minimalistic ballads, big chaotic charges of energy and subtle grooves. The open structures allow the unique and personal expression of each of the seven musicians shine through.

This release adds a new expressive chapter to the artistic portfolio of both the group and the bandleader, and it shows that nothing is as you believe it to be beneath the surface. Tracks lead one way, then turn, change and offer a different take on the melody or riff. It is beautiful music and created by a seriously good arranger, yet there is a lot of room for improvisation which is mostly taken.

There is something about Northern European ensembles and musicians in that they create tracks which seem to conjure up landscapes of barren and cold climes, yet there is an energy infused within, hidden and waiting to be unleashed.

Ever since I first heard Lars Fiil there has been an expectation, a musician who is growing and when he played aty the event I curated in London in 2017 he had grown musically even from the time I first heard his sounds in 2016. That he is still growing and developing is clear and in this album all the signs are there to indicate Lars Fiil and his trio and septet are willing to explore further, grow more and enhance the improvising scene for a long time to come.

Tomasz Dabrowski - trumpet
Henrik Pultz Melbye- saxophone, clarinet
Henrik Olsson - guitar
Martin Fabricius - vibraphone
Lars Fiil - piano
Casper Nyvang Rask - double bass
Bjørn Heebøll - drums

Live video from the studio:


Captain Hate said...

Thanks for describing this so interestingly; I'm listening to it now and it's really good.