The late John Peel stated that the lasting appeal to him of his favourite band, The Fall was that they were ‘always different but always the same’. Well a similar judgement could be made of Manfred Eicher’s enduring ECM (Editions of Contemporary Music). Since 1969 Munich’s ECM has coined its own Euro jazz currency where each release has been different in form, function and muse but always a similar third streamed pensive mood. ECM’s motto used to be ‘the Most Beautiful Sound Next To Silence’ which may have sounded a bit more gripping in German. You always know what to expect from an ECM release.
Tucked away in the corner of late 2016 was Atmospheres, a double disc opus the shows the ECM algorithm has not lost any of its ability to sooth and beguile. Recorded and mixed in three days in Lugano, this heavyweight quartet blend early music, folk, avant garde and cool jazz into a stealthy sound tapestry. Neither as structured as songs or as open ended as improvisations, the music has the stamp of drifting mood pieces.
The core material is made of ten slices of music entitled Traces 1-10 with a few Armenian classical tunes on the side plate.
Atmospheres is a very much a collaborative affair with Tigran Hamaysan’s cold water piano embroided neatly with the contemporary drones & dissonances of Jan Bang’s electro trick bag. There is a liturgical pungency to Arve Henriksen’s trumpet as it glides in and out. Eivind Aarset applies further layers of limpid guitar shading, smudging the moods from chilly to beauty to melancholy and unease. There are no flat tires on this vehicle but its double disc length asks the listener to cover a lot of road so you might take a pit stop along the way.
Atmospheres is a potent distillation of the ECM sensibility and is warmly recommended.
Tigran Hamasyan - piano
Arve Henriksen - trumpet
Eyvind Aarset - guitar
Jan Bang - live sampling, samples