Illusions of the Future

Following Inperspectycon Vol. 1 from 2021 comes Inperspectycon Vol 2. (AUDIOBULB RECORDS AB120) from this solo Belgian bass player Gert De Meester who calls himself Distant Fires Burning. Half of the album is solo, as Gert delivers himself of his pessimistic thoughts about the coronavirus, a force which he regards as having had a “devastating impact” on life, and he expresses his bleak emotions with heavily-treated dark ambient long-form tones about “hope” and “endurance”, with sounds which I think began life on his bass guitar. The second half of the album is remixes made by Neuro…No Nuero, He Can Jog, Anunada, and others. I’m not sure which is the more repellent mode; the self-regarding and futile noodling of the solo cuts, or the formless blather of the remixes, none of which succeed in adding anything new to the music. At least Gert’s solo work has a kind of single-minded purity about it, perhaps reflecting the processes of a troubled mind during lockdown. In that light, a track such as ‘Book of Hopeful Perspective’ emerges as a lonely anthem of endless, drifting, black forms, the longest 15 minutes in show business. A grim and unsatisfying listen. (11/03/2022)

Hugely ambitious double CD of music called Illusion (DISCUS MUSIC DISCUS 131CD) from Martin Archer teaming up with the UK jazz veteran genius Julie Tippetts. It’s a real two-parter – Circle Of Whispers is high-quality work, a set of 13 jazz-tinged songs delivered by Tippetts with her very distinctive voice (both yearning and yet extremely precise), with colourful music backdrops by Archer’s crew. This is a musical tour de force with jazz, jazz-rock, and plenty of instances of music that simply can’t be categorised. The use of string players, electronics, exotic percussion, and pedal steel guitar creates a stylistic tapestry that’s almost as rich as an Alice Coltrane LP. I liked this one well enough, but it’s the Illusion Suite CD which might just scoop the prize for sheer innovation. Here, Archer and team have taken the unusual step of effectively creating a 75-minute non-stop barrage of music and assembled it like a mixtape – or a DJ mix, to use Archer’s own terms. This means that the jazz and the songs are now vying for a place within an elaborate whirlwind of dancefloor beats and a rich electronic music foundation. I’m sure this will upset purist music fans (both in the Techno and Jazz genres), but I’ve got to admire Archer’s bravado in pulling this one off. There’s simply too much to listen to, too many tastes, textures and styles in every bite, yet it pulsates with a raw, wild excitement. Investigate. (29/03/2022)

Not experimental music, but Second Sight (ROMERO RECORDS ROM023) by Julian Curwin is a set of instrumental music played by Curwin on guitar, synths, and the banjo. Stylistically he’s in thrall to movie soundtrack music, and makes strenuous efforts to emulate the styles and moods that come so easily to talented composers like Morricone. Among his co-players is the percussionist from the Spaghetti Western Orchestra, and Lloyd Swanton who played bass in The Necks. Competent, but shallow and derivative, not far from restaurant music; he namechecks jazz and Latin music in his notes, but neither he nor his heavy-handed band come within 100 miles of understanding syncopation. (16/03/2022)

Very genuine and moving musical statement from Benedicte Maurseth on Harr (HUBRO MUSIC HUBROCD2645). She not only plays the Hardanger fiddle (as close as Norway gets to a national instrument, I think), but Hardanger is her homeland. The album is intended as a compassionate portrait of the environment, the wildlife, and above all the people, of that area. That’s her grandfather on the cover. Benedicte studied under Knut Hamre and has become a respected solo player on the fiddle, but she’s a composer in her own right, and her very moving and heartfelt music is played here by herself, Hakon Stene, Mats Eilertsen and guest players on electronics, saxophone, percussion, and samples. Impressive chamber music results, sometimes lively and complex, sometimes wistful and sad (without becoming sentimental). Like many open-minded and musically voracious composers, she draws inspiration from Norwegian folk forms, as well as minimalism (Steve Reich is detectable on ‘Heilo’), free improvisation, and tape manipulation. Recordings of wildlife and the environment have a part to play too; the reindeers are especially charming. Some of these Hubro releases can be a shade too facile for me, but this is a set of excellent highly original chamber music, and an extremely listenable suite. (03/03/2022)