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Food: Quiet Inlet

Quiet Inlet is the debut ECM release for veteran avant-garde/electronic jazzers Food, which lately has mostly been centered around the duo of British saxophonist Iain Bellamy and Norwegian drummer Thomas Stronen. For Quiet Inlet, the two are joined by guitarist Christian Fennesz and trumpet player Nils Petter Moivaer.

Many of the tracks here on Quiet Inlet feature a plethora of bubbling electronics (contributed by most of the group) and Stronen's rhythmic dynamics as the main foundation. Opener "Tobiko" is all about those two elements, as Stronen paints an intricate landscape with his layers of percussion while seething electronics flutter about the mix. Bellamy's yearning sax comes into play on the meditative "Chimaera", a chilling number dripping with stark atmosphere, thanks to far reaching trumpet & sax explorations and cold cymbal flutters. The band dive into almost space-rock menace on the ominous "Mictyris", a great piece highlighted by intricate stick work from Stronen, brooding sound effects, and Bellamy's haunting sax. The moody "Becalmed" is a much more sedate number, permeated by plenty of effects and the dual sax/trumpet drones from Stronen & Molvaer, and "Cirrina" is the first time on the CD that we come across straight sounding jazz, though very calming jazz at that. They take that one step further on "Dweller", a creepy slice of dark jazz that again hints at plenty of menace, and Fennesz makes an appearance with his array of noises and sound effects on the avant-garde piece "Fathom".

All in all, Quiet Inlet features some chilling sounds, though if you like your jazz a little upbeat this might be a challenging listen for you. At times the CD lacks some variety and dynamics, which perhaps might have been improved had Fennesz made more of an impact here (you can barely discern any actual guitar sounds on the CD), but there's no denying that Food took some chances here and came up with a dark yet ultimately rewarding collection of music.

Track Listing
.1 Tobiko
.2 Chimaera
.3 Mictyris
.4 Becalmed
.5 Cirrina
.6 Dweller
.7 Fathom

Added: October 12th 2010
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: ECM Records
Hits: 1860
Language: english

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Food: Quiet Inlet
Posted by Alex Torres, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-10-12 07:43:01
My Score:

Clearly, a band releasing its sixth album must be doing something right and appealing to a sizeable audience, so Food's style of ambient, meditative jazz must pull in the punters. Ambient, meditative music does, in general, appeal to a fair market; finding that market is usually the problem!

Quiet Inlet does what it says "on the tin". It's a collection of sonic explorations centering on percussion and reed/wind instruments. What sets these compositions apart is the specific balance between the percussion on the one hand and the reeds/wind on the other. Other than "Mictyris", which builds up some tempo and "noise" as it seems to try to emulate the sounds of a city, the pieces are all contemplative. "Mictyris" is the stand-out track of the album; the piece brings together the best of both main elements, as well as adding some electronic wizardry into the soundscape's focus region. Overall, the playing is top notch, with some of the reed playing in particular being sublime.

I heard the album a couple of times, separated by about a week, and had the same problem on both hearings: I really enjoyed the beginning, when I was able to focus and follow the music, but from about the half-way point of "Becalmed" my attention became just that and the music's contemplative qualities lulled my attention into a state of turpor. The latter half of the album, it seems to me, focuses too much on too little reed/wind melodic development at the cost of the percussion which had been the "star" of the opening half to the detriment of the whole. Some recovery of this aspect is evident in the latter half of "Fathom" but, by that stage, it is too late from an album dynamics point of view; the normal listener will already have switched off.

In conclusion, during the early part of the album, whilst the percussion dominates or is at least an equal sonic partner, there is much to enjoy; also, if you take any of these album tracks out and listen to them in isolation, there is much to enjoy; but as an album listening experience, even as a meditative listening experience, the enjoyment fades during the latter half due to there being insufficient sustained sonic development.

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