Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lisa Mezzacappa & Nightshade - Cosmic Rift [Leo]

Cory Wright - Bb and bass clarinet
John Finkbeiner - electric guitar
Tim Perkis - electronics
Lisa Mezzacappa - acoustic bass
Kjell Nordeson - vibraphone and percussion

Leo Records 2011

Autumn comes lurking around and this album fits great this kind of weather (quite aptly named group indeed). And while Lisa Mezzacappa cites various inspirations on some pieces, her personal compositional stamp and the group's cohesive sound make this work whether you're familiar or not with the source of inspiration (which you can read about in the liner notes).
The instrumentation of this band is crucial to the resulting music - the brooding, dark and melancholy and somehow elegant sound, while the smooth velvety-heavy textures are fractured with subtle electronics accents. 

"Delphinus" charms with its delicate, slow and pensieve melody. Gentle, melancholy chant. And I don't really care if the title merely suggests or enforces the picture - there's a vision of a vast ocean in that music, powerfull yet silent this time, and this evocative, immaginery quality of this music makes it stand out in the genre that prefers the abstract. The "Alvamel's Dream" presents the same quality, the slighly surreal, misty vibe, that goes back and forth between the disturbing and dark moments and the peacefull melodies. "The Cosmic Rift" (opens and closes the album) might the most abstract, yet the feeling of space and measure fits the title as well. And isn't the melody appearing in this space a metaphor of the cosmos on its own?
There are three pieces that are not composed by Lisa (atlhough she arranged the first two) yet they fit great in the set. "The Eric Dolphy Memorial BBQ" (cover of Frank Zappa's), while it's theme is built upon a bass clarinet sound, it gives also space for bit of rebelious guitar solo and is indeed a tribute to two great artists (Dolphy and Zappa). The pensieve "Regard de L'etoile" by Oliver Messiaen circles around the gently suspended in the air sounds of vibraphone and electronics, hypnotic in it chord-repetition (taken over by the contrasting staccato lines of bass, guitar and clarinet). "Ballet" (by Cory Wright),the most experimental track of the album, a sonic blurried cloud full of strange noises (especially guitar and electronics) circulating around the pulsating low note of the bass clarinet till the clear melody emerges out of the mix..
I think it's obsolete to add at this point how good the playing is (I love Finkbeiner's guitar though!) because the more albums I listen to the more founded is my oppinion that you can't have good music without good playing but if the music is bad it doesn't matter how good the playing is. 
If you like noir movies, if you like rainy days, if you like autumn, if you like the the first moments of the night - you will like this album. If not, it might help you get through it.

ps. Just one more thought I want to put out there. Lisa cites many direct inspirations to her work (like the drawings by Yehudit Sasportas - you can see the partial reproduction of Cosmic Rift No.38 used as the album's cover), yet you don't need to know those to be inspired by Lisa's work. And the inspiration can go on like this forever. Call me idealist but isn't this a wonderfull thing?

Two tracks from the cd are presented in this playlist here

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