Jonne Taavitsainen Threedom

 

Leap of Faith

The sound landscape of Leap of Faith is akin to driving long distance on your own, but not being alone.

Mood, therefore, is pervasive. Some might describe Leap of Faith as having something of the night about it: the effect after repeat listening can be somnolent.

The ten tracks are indisputably hypnotic, impossible to package for popular consumption by lazy or inappropriate metaphors.

Consider Sam River’s Beatrice: all gravitational forces are switched off, all preconceptions are redundant, Joonas Tuuri’s bass pulsates with repetitive beat.

The classical ostinato is repetition within a rhythmic wattle, but Jonne Taavitsainen’s drums and Joel Parvamo’s guitar look to development.

This is the epitome of Leap of Faith’s commitment to an unsettling sonic space, devoid of an endless stream of notes, but leaving the attic door ajar for darkness to descend.

Throughout, the magnetic New Page, the hypnotic Falling and the spatial Home reflect the layered essence of each: essential to the group’s sound is the tightest integration of bluesy guitar and the congenial rhythm section of segued bass and drums.

The Jonne Taavitsainen Threedom is a fusion of varied influences but with a distinct interpretation, which to many will resemble early Erik Truffaz, with a splash of the ambient.

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Anuk Arudpragasam

 

 

tamil

The Story of a Brief Marriage

Anuk Arudpragasam

 

This is Arudpragasam’s first novel, but he writes with the composure and the confidence of a veteran, whose sentences shed the skin of what has unfurled previously, as a new stream replenishing itself across an otherwise barren plateau.

The book’s title, once Dinesh and Ganga extrapolate themselves – however briefly – from the front line separating the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan army, and two become one after they are married, liberates Arudpragasam from the obligation to formulate a surprising denouement.

In other words, we are expected to assume that either or both are doomed: it has been written.

The horror of war, as graphic as any Pat Barker scene mired in the trenches of Flanders, is served up by Arudpragasam without histrionics or theatrical embellishment, but from the opening description of torn limbs and shredded bodies, living and dead, we unmistakeably descend into one of Dante’s circles of the pits of hell.

The prose which blossoms from this dungheap of catastrophe makes Arudpragasam’s achievement all the more remarkable, for each sentence snares our imagination and we cannot escape, emotionally or philosophically, from what Dinesh sees and hears.

Arudpragasam is a young man, so on a personal level, The Story of a Brief Marriage doesn’t draw on his own experience, but is a work of research and imagination: unlike The Divine Comedy, it is not intended as an allegory, and the prose, when served as reportage, is searing.

‘Most children have two whole legs and two whole arms but this little six-year-old that Dinesh was carrying had already lost one leg, the right one from the lower thigh down, and was now about to lose his right arm,’ is the first line of the novel, and the tone and pace is fastened.

We are plunged into the heart of a war zone, where the innocent are encircled by the omnipresent menace of death from the air, and the only way Arudpragasam can leaven the horror is to have the bombing ebb and flow.

And in this sabbatical Dinesh accedes to the request of a man, mourning the death of his wife and child, to marry his daughter in the hope that the victorious soldiers will be disinclined to rape a married woman.

The tenderness which Arudpragasam unearths in the most trying of circumstances is not spolied by a cloying indulgence, and he captures beautifully the amorphous lightness of Dinesh’s uncertain and awkward effort to become a husband.

But love is the weakest force in this environment and is no match for the long reach of internecine war. ‘But if they couldn’t talk about their pasts, what could they say to each other at all, given that there was no future for hem o speak of either?’ writes Arudpragasam, not yet  a quarter way through the book.

Nicolas Kummert

 

La diversite

 

La diversite is a recording of our time: is it a statement or a comment by tenor saxophonist Nicolas Kummert? Most definitely. The reputation of his native Belgium has been hijacked by Islamic fundamentalists, and their philosophy of hate couldn’t be more alien to his.

Celebrated for his versatility as a saxophonist and his openness to a plenitude of influences outside Europe (he has collaborated with African singers and both house and hip hop DJs), Kummert has also toured extensively in Martinique and Turkey.

At just 17, he collaborated with musicians from Senegal and Mali, and arising from a recording session with Patrick Ruffino, he joined forces with Lionel Loueke, omnipresent on the 14 tracks of la diversite.

The playing by both here is sumptuous, especially on We’ll Be Alright and And What If We’re Not? although Nicolas Thys on bass and Karl Jannuska have the honour with Rainbow People of labouring la diversite into the light.

There isn’t a misplaced or weak track in this collection, though it’s advisable to fast forward to We’ll Be Alright to savour the efflorescence of Kummert’s sonic solo and the terrific interplay with Loueke: the flip side, And What If We’re Not ? is gentler and acoustic, repeating the earlier refrain of We’ll Be Alright. Existentialist jazz? Yeah, why not.

Elsewhere, there is an abundance of quality, including two innovative but truly jazz interpretations of Hallelujah, (one long and lone short) recorded in memory of Leonard Cohen.

Lighthouse shows the quartet as its most sensitive, while Satie’s Gnossienne and Gnossienne a deux are a reminder of the accessibility within paramater-less jazz for experimental classic compositions composed in free time.

Like Hallelujah, the opening notes are instantly recognisable, and then Kummert takes the rhythm and chordal structure and puts his own indelible and frankly gorgeous stamp on them.

Deaths of the Poets

funeral

By Paul Farley & Michael Symmons Roberts

 

If, as Farley and Roberts suggest –  based on research by an American academic – that being a published poet is more dangerous than being a deep sea diver, then the premise of this book is self evident: not alone should poets be uninsurable, but their company should be avoided at all costs.

However, while each page bears the colophon of a death’s head, and Farley and Roberts risk being literary pall bearers for the well known tragic poets – John Berryman, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton – and the less well known – the murdered John Riley and the reclusive Rosemary Tonk, the successful poet today has never had it so good.

Grants, Nobel Prizes, bursaries, Presidencies have gradually removed poets from the paucity of the garret and from living hand to mouth: indeed the last infamous suicide in the highly enjoyable Deaths of the Poets – a clearly certifiable Berryman from a Minneapolis bridge – occurred when both authors were mere chaps and studying Wordsworth at school.

With the exception of the Great War poets, and the authors had any amount to choose from (Rupert Brooke, Francis Ledwidge are not included), their exhaustive research is less cemetery rambling and more digging through copious files and correspondence and visiting places immortalised less by the poet’s final words than by their deeds: Dylan Thomas’s alleged eighteen straight whiskeys at the White Horse Inn, or Anne Sexton’s death in her garage. Farley and Roberts should be commended for knowing the difference between snooping and enlightenment and when they feel they are trespassing (inspecting unpublished notes by Thom Gunn) they back off.

Though death is the big line break, the authors are not obsessed with the more often than not abrupt caesura which shuffles off the mortal coil whether a poet is in their stride (Plath and Thomas) or not, William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore.

Both authors are award winning poets and – thankfully – it shows with lucid expositions about the individual behind the poet, such as a brilliant investigate foray into the last days of Keith Douglas, killed in Normandy a short time after the D Day landings, or Byron in Greece, for many the definitive iconic image of the tragic poet, although he certainly had a good time whilst becoming a legend.

Familiarity with contemporary poetry writing in English eases one’s passage through this most enjoyable tome, and even a nodding acquaintance with Cal Lowell and his contemporaries, including Berryman and Elizabeth Bishop, or, closer to home, Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, helps distil the purity from the precis-like quality of the analysis

Tim Berne/Matt Mitchell

cd cover

Tim Berne’s Førage feat. Matt Mitchell

 

The compositions of iconic saxophonist/bandleader Tim Berne have earned respect for their intensely kinetic, dizzyingly intricate quality as performed around the world by his various groups over the past four decades.

With the album førage, you have the chance to experience Berne’s music as never before, in versions for solo piano: virtuoso pianist Matt Mitchell has explored the full range of the composer’s songbook.

This is the first music-only physical product from Berne’s imprint Screwgun in years, the saxophonist having lately released the three most widely acclaimed albums of his career via ECM.

Studio maestro David Torn – a long time sonic co-conspirator with Berne, as well as producer of Mitchell’s past two albums – helmed the recording of førage.

The cover artwork and distinctive CD package is by Steven Byran, who has worked hand in glove with Berne for decades – including the recent Screwgun publication of their joint art book, Spare.

førage refers to Mitchell foraging through Berne’s music to find the pieces that felt best for exploring solo  to find the parts that speak most to him, that inspire him as an improviser.

Mitchell’s re-combinations of Berne material on førage can see the pianist move, for example, in the new track  Cløùdē from music derived from the beginning of Spare Parts (off the first Snakeoil album) to a section from Thin Ice (The Shell Game) back into Spare Parts.

Similarly, the new pieceŒrbs finds Mitchell starting with a loose version of the head from Not Sure (Snakeoil) and then improvising into the intro from OC/DC (Shadow Man).

From the arrangements and performances to the recorded sound and physical package, førage is very much the product of a crew of kindred spirits.

Mitchell not only hears everything that’s going on, he exudes such positive energy – something that’s really important when someone is performing alone.