FFEAR (short for Forum for Electro-Acoustic Research) is a four piece improvisational and avant-garde jazz & classical group led by Ole Mathisen (saxophone) and Chris Washburne (trombone), that also features Per Mathisen (bass) and Tony Moreno (drums). Mirage is their brand new release for Jazzheads Records, and it's a challenging yet highly enjoyable listen for those who like advanturous music and are willing to take a journey well off the beaten path.
The bulk of the album is comprised of the two lengthy suites, "Mirage, Parts 1-5" and 'Frederick Sommer Suite, No. 1-5", each one epic in length and scope, and features plenty of fiery improvisation as well as some structured arrangements. The synergy between Mathisen and Washburne is astounding, and you can quickly tell that these two have worked together in the past after listening to their unison, often times dizzying lines on the opening "Mirage" suite. This is by no means easy listening or for the faint of heart, but true lovers of avant-garde music, free-jazz, and contemporary improvised classical will find much to love here. Not wanting to be left out in left field, Moreno lays down a wild drum solo on part 5, titled "Scenes", and Per Mathisen's slippery bass is all over part 6's "Haze".
The "Frederick Sommer Suite" is just as adventurous, but has a bit more groove, with Mathisen's elastic bass lines driving some squonking melodies from Washburne & Mathisen. As the lengthy suite begins to unfold more, the tones get darker and more ominous, with sparse arrangements featuring bleak melodies and stabbing bursts of sax and trombone sticking out in the mix before all players jump in with a mad, free-form jazz finale. "Standing Waves" is mostly a quick vehicle for Washburne's fluttering sax, and "U-Bend" is a quirky little complex burner, featuring great unison lines from Washburne & Mathisen while Moreno furiously crashes his kit underneath. The band ends the album on a chilling note with "Hyperion Conduit", as ominous trumpet bleatings and squonking sax cut through a furious wall of intense bass and drums, as FFEAR go out on a high note on this dramatic and thoroughly engaging collection of music.
Like I mentioned earlier, Mirage certainly won't be for everyone, but in a day and age when so much jazz and contemporary classical has a very sterile sound to it, this band has brought the goods in a big way. Fans of the ECM Records roster will certainly find lots to like here.
1. Mirage, Pt. 1: Haze(5:42)
2. Mirage, Pt. 2: Shimmer(4:04)
3. Mirage, Pt. 3: Shapes(5:32)
4. Mirage, Pt. 4: Scenes(7:35)
5. Mirage, Pt. 5: Haze(3:19)
6. Frederick Sommer Suite - Sommer, No. 1: Borrowed Time(4:33)
7. Frederick Sommer Suite - Sommer, No. 2: Circle Back(3:11)
8. Frederick Sommer Suite - Sommer, No. 3: Be Smudged(1:48)
9. Frederick Sommer Suite - Sommer, No. 4: Illusive Lineage(3:43)
10. Frederick Sommer Suite - Sommer, No. 5: There Is No There There(3:50)
11. Standing Waves(1:46)
13. Hyperion Conduit(5:32)