‘Woven Entity’ – Woven Entity

WovenEntity

THE INTRIGUE, acceptance and then fascination with offbeat musical creativity is a sequence of emotions which, in my book, remains enduringly satisfying – those awakening senses of discovery and abandonment exposing hitherto uncharted soundscapes.

Oliver Weindling’s Babel Label (now in its 21st year) is the place to head for such revelations, the latest being this eponymous debut from electro-percussive quartet Woven Entity: Lascelle Gordon (percussion and electronics), Patrick Dawes (percussion), Paul May (drums) and Peter Marsh (bass), joined by guests Ben Cowen (keys, electronics), Julie Kjaer (alto sax, flute) and Alan Wilkinson (alto sax).

Woven Entity’s four base quartet members have impressive individual CVs and, formed in 2010, this collaboration interlaces shifting, free-running textures, effects and grooves, all with a strong hypnotic attraction. The instrumental psychedelia becomes progressively immersive (especially when experienced loud) as the album proceeds with a phantasmagoria of electronics, percussion, mechanicals and field recordings, plus the introduction of atmospheric saxes and flute. This is not the jazz of comfortable melody and rhythm, hard- or post-bop, but rather an exploration into the unknown which initially feels mysterious – even challenging – but then, with its divergence, saturation and complexity of sound mix, arrives at ‘compelling’.

Selecting some pointers from the ten tracks, the randomness of bass, drums, bongos and balafon in Naked Eye gradually transforms into a mesmeric riff illuminated by the brash, dry African mystery of Julie Kjaer’s flute; This Day Will Come suggests woodland clearings, Peter Marsh’s thrummed bass accompanied by echoic birdsong and childlike harmonica; and So Black Dada‘s vocalised jaw harp and multifarious percussive rattlings are joined by the hollow-yet-melodic alto sax of Alan Wilkinson.

Trissh, an engaging ‘clockwork gamelan’, evolves into slow, deep trance peppered with electronics; and a cacophony of scribbles and scrawls announces ten-minute Earth/Crisis, a brooding, mobile bass riff over which Julie Kjaer’s alto fidgets and squawks almost involuntarily before heavy drumming builds in intensity, Kjaer’s electronically-manipulated sax becoming more shawm-like. Point Noir is bathed in esoteric mysticism, as if viewing safely from a distance, its brilliantly flutter-tongued flute over foreboding percussion and sustained, otherworldly electronics adding a sense of widescreen drama; and Moors & Orandas closes with its tantalisingly short burst of soundtrack, again featuring the propulsive bass of Marsh… a trailer for volume two, perhaps!

Check out this absorbing release for yourself, available both as physical CD and download (with unlimited streaming) at Bandcamp. Woven Entity’s excitingly original sound feels particularly visual (maybe an oxymoron, but true) – no surprise, then, that their live London appearances have been so warmly received.

 

Lascelle Gordon percussion and electronics
Patrick Dawes percussion
Paul May drums
Peter Marsh bass
with
Ben Cowen keys, electronics
Julie Kjaer alto saxophone, flute
Alan Wilkinson alto saxophone

wovenentity.blogspot.co.uk
babellabel.co.uk

Babel Label – BDV13123 (2014)

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‘Come To Me’ – The Sirkis/Bialas International Quartet

ComeToMe

THE INVITATION to share in the rarefied, positive atmospheres contained within this debut release from the Sirkis Bialas International Quartet is tangible from an ensemble who evidently love what they create together.

Acclaimed drummer and percussionist Asaf Sirkis’ 2013 album Shepherd’s Stories included amongst its jazz/rock solidity an enchanting, wordless cameo appearance by Polish vocalist Sylwia Bialas whose new-age tones were so intriguing as to suggest the development of a future musical collaboration. This conceptual spark has now ignited a synergetic new quartet with pianist Frank Harrison and bassist Patrick Bettison, featuring the broad scope of Bialas’ vocal dexterity.

Dividing equally the ten compositions of Come To Me, Sirkis and Bialas create expansive landscapes (jazz, folk, world, prog) which are, in turns, contemplative, brooding and joyfully animated. Sylwia Bialas uses her voice either to shape her self-penned native lyrics or to explore more and more inventive instrumental avenues, frequently taking it through seemingly unreachable pitches and athletic rhythmic patterns. And the distinction here is the constant interaction with her fellow players; this is no ‘singer plus band’ set-up, but rather a fully integrated quartet whose conception feels unique.

Patrick Bettison’s conversational electric bass style bears something of a resemblance to that of supremo Jeff Berlin, his fretless-like timbre a good match for Bialas’ various intonations; Frank Harrison displays all the sparky virtuosity and tender lyricism of his own trio albums and catalogue of recordings with Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble; and former Orient House colleague Asaf Sirkis is as commanding as ever in providing the quartet’s complex rhythmic backbone plus typically infinite elaborations (his accomplished Konnakol skills need to be heard and seen to be believed!).

Title track Come To Me offers a first glimpse of the band’s telepathy, its sparse, unison vocal and piano motif opening into Gustavsenesque transcendence, and Bialas’ lyrics evolving as liltingly sung improvisation. The empyreal lucidity of Dreams Dreams is haunting, with a measured pace maintained by Sirkis’ intricate cymbal patterns; and Vortex spins propulsively to Bettison’s mobile bass (entertaining to watch, live, the concentration required to hold his ostinato position against Sirkis’ audacious cross-rhythms) as Bialas stretches out broadly and magnificently.

The otherwise quiet introversion of Sylwia Bialas’ Ismael is pierced by an emotional Middle Eastern vocal style, Harrison displaying his customary high-searching piano finesse, and Bettison’s harmonica extemporisations adding a sophisticated sense of mystery. Recognisably Sirkis’ writing, A Hymn possesses a certain ‘prog ominousness’, showcasing the effectiveness of Bialas’ voice as an instrument, whilst Mandragora builds into a bristling, cosmopolitan melting pot of so many ideas and influences – a great performance.

Bialas’ lucent Polish lyricism in The One shines out, echoed by lofty instrumental delicacy; and the energy of Magnolia is infectious, Sirkis revelling in its percussive possibilities. Inspired by the subject of paranormal light trails in imagery, the band again summon their combined aptitude for conveying fragility in Orbs – spatial and otherworldly, it holds the attention so beautifully. And Sirkis’ rock-driven closer, Orgon, ripples to the eloquence of Bettison’s bass and Harrison’s electric piano, concluding with mischievous, disquieting electronic vocal effects from Bialas.

Choose your moment with this album – but late evening (“In the silence of the night, in the depth of nothingness”) is when its magic is especially revealed, with the space reflecting every nuance that has been placed and captured so crystal-clearly. Launched at the EFG London Jazz Festival on 21 November 2014, claim that wonder for yourself at Bandcamp or JazzCDs.

 

Asaf Sirkis drums, compositions
Sylwia Bialas
vocals, overtone singing, compositions
Frank Harrison piano, keyboards
Patrick Bettison electric bass, chromatic harmonica

asafsirkis.co.uk
sylwiabialas.com

Stonedbird Productions – SBPQ004 (2014)

‘Pulcinella’ – Bestiole

Pulcinella

FIZZZZING with les ébats et le feu (er, frolics and fire), French quartet Bestiole create an extravagant, fantastical whirl of excitement with their third album, Pulcinella.

Hailing from the South West (Toulouse) and translated as ‘tiny creatures’, Bestiole consists of the tireless and highly inventive talents of Ferdinand Doumerc (saxes, flute, metallaphone), Florian Demonsant (accordion, kaval), Jean-Marc Serpin (double bass) and Frédéric Cavallin (drums, metallophone, glockenspiel). And together, with theatrical, circus-like wonder as well as an innate jazz sensibility, they present this eleven-track cross-genre amalgam of kaleidoscopic colour.

That typically Gallic pairing of saxophone and accordion features strongly throughout, delivered with fluent, showy abandon by Doumerc and Demonsant. At times, as in the long-titled opening number Garez vous chez vous dans l’allée vous emmerdez tout le monde, there’s a resemblance to the Iain Ballamy and Stian Carstensen duo project, ‘The Little Radio’. But, as a quartet, with added bass and drums thrust, they push their ideas to the limits via squawks, flutters, glissandi, handclaps and yells (check out Ni vu ni connu) over rapid ostinato phrases. First hearings suggest chaos and randomness, but it’s all carefully conceived and beautifully executed.

Christiana identifies the band’s more reflective alter ego – a mysteriously lilting waltz propelled by bassist Jean-Marc Serpin, its sustained, cascading accordion gently underpinning Doumerc’s mellow tenor. The addition of Patrick Vaillant’s mandolin and Daniel Casimir’s trombone in Sur le pavé la lune conjures clandestine monochrome movie mischief, although this slippery, moonlit soundworld later breaks down into a mandolin-induced riot of brass and percussion (it’s this unpredictability which is so fascinating). The gently-rocking metallophone in Morphée, along with its slumberous tenor melody, vividly illustrates the idea of twilight sleep – and although there’s a twist (again) as sinister, nightmarish overtones develop, quietude is eventually restored.

The cheeky, spacial brevity of Raksi chaparrak (la danse du papillon) – its trilled flutes reminiscent of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson – leads to the wonderfully sauntering-cum-swinging Le moustique ambiteux, Serpin and Cavallin providing the spiky bass and percussion propulsion – infectious stuff indeed! ‘Jazz-funk salsa’ inhabits another short episode, Tu parles trop (or ‘you talk too much’), its yakking nature portrayed superbly by pecking mandolin and brassy chatterings. Niger is sublime in contrast – lyrical tenor against undulating accordion. And then… eight minutes in the company of La Tarantelle, which buzzes, clatters and falls over itself with unalloyed exuberance. This whirling dance, which rests only momentarily, seems to sum up the band’s ethos – put simply, a rollicking good time! The quietly bewitching endpiece, Envoûtement, with its breathy kaval melody over repeated metallophone (curiously recalling Gong, Mike Oldfield) is exquisite, and a mark of Bestiole’s impressive musicality.

Successfully coupled on recent UK gigs (in the Match & Fuse series) with similarly brash British bands Troyka and Brass Mask, Pulcinella is now on general release, and hugely entertaining – here’s a quick blast of what to expect.

 

Ferdinand Doumerc saxophones, flûte, métallophone
Florian Demonsant accordéon, kaval
Jean-Marc Serpin contrebasse
Frédéric Cavallin batterie, métallophone, glockenspiel
with
Patric Vaillant mandoline
Daniel Casimir trombone

Yellowbird/Enja – 9276 (2014)