Double bassist Michel Benita is no stranger to ECM as he has been involved with Andy Sheppard's bands but his latest album River Silver is his first on that label as a band leader. He released his first solo album Drastic in 2010.
On the album he is joined by Elvind Aarset (guitars, electronics), Matthieu Michel (flugelhorn), Philippe Garcia (drums) and Mieko Miyazaki (koto).
This is a prime example of less is sometimes more. The space and subtlety offered on this recording is what makes it so good. The musicians are masters of the quiet soundscape preferring to offer gentle passages rather than abrupt sonic constructs. The exotic koto is a Japanese string instrument that is a big part of the quartet's sound often giving the music a folky flavour. Flugelhorn is also a big part of this album as well offering eerie yet melodic passages and of course Benita's bass is prominent throughout. Gripping ethereal flugelhorn lines and a cool drum build make the title track worth more than a casual glance as does the marching drum intro and lovely koto in the opening track "Back From the Moon". More otherworldly brass and interesting drum patterns highlight "I See Altitudes" and the brass in the mesmerizing "Off the Coast" is absolutely haunting. The building of tension in the bass heavy "Toonari" with its atmospheric instrumentation is almost unearthly and makes for great late night listening. The koto and bass weave intricate tapestries of sound in "Hacihi Gatsu" and makes for another fine track.
River Silver is one of those albums that is hard to describe. The playing is subtle yet impeccable and the songs have a gentle flow that is easy to listen to but this is anything but a commercial sounding album. A transcending and truly beautiful album from a group of musicians who are purveyors of the unplayed note.
1. Back From the Moon
2. River Silver
3. I See the Altitudes
4. Off the Coast
7. Hacihi Gatsu
9. Snowed In
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