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Jan Bang: ...And Poppies From Kandahar

Jan Bang is a Norwegian collaborative composer whose name appears on many of the releases from David Sylvian's Samadhisound label. For his first attempt at putting together a project under his own name, Jan has chosen both a difficult subject and system for piecing together his music. The album title and a quick look through song titles such as "Drug Mule", "Suicide Bomber" or "Who Grooms The Child?" leave you in no doubt that what has been put together here is a deep dense journey through a harrowing tale which Jan Bang takes the listener on through his sparse yet expertly arranged music. The album runs more as one cohesive piece of music rather than individual songs and the lack of vocals and the strong use of gentle and evocative sounds and noises makes this a journey that requires your full attention to have any hope of understanding what is going on. The album was constructed by using different pieces of music, some recorded on the stage and some in the studio, with Jan painstakingly and judging by the results skilfully fusing them together. It is actually hard to believe that ...And Poppies From Kandahar was constructed in this way as the music ebbs and flows almost as though it was recorded in one single session.

Impressive though the end result is, I have to say that the biggest stumbling block I had with this album is that it just isn't engaging enough to really allow you to fully enter the deep, oppressive world that it creates. There are too many long sections that rely on repetitive sounds to carry the barest of arrangements that actually have less instrumentation that they do atmospheric scene setting effects. That said it is impossible to deny that in the right circumstances the music presented on this album is capable of being deeply unsettling in the way I would presume Jan wanted it to be. The sombre trumpet that lends a challenging jazz angle to "Abdication And Coronation" finally leads to some release from the harshness of what has come before, even if it does so in a way that continues to be intentionally dank and depressive. That dark jazz flavour also features through "Suicide Bomber" and "Taking Life" and while they remain as uncompromising as the other pieces of music on this album, the latter especially is deeply moving and compelling listening, something that can also be said for closing piece "Exile From Paradise", which was recorded on stage with Jon Hassell on trumpet.

There are moments on ...And Poppies From Kandahar that are truly breath taking and the arrangements and sensitivity in the music is never less than stunning. However for some there will be long stretches of this album which are too impenetrable and dense to really make this a truly pleasurable experience to be repeated often.

Track Listing
1. The Drug Mule
2. Self Injury
3. The Midwife's Dilemma
4. Passport Control
5. Who Grooms The Child?
6. Heidegger's Silence
7. Abdication And Coronation
8. Suicide Bomber
9. Taking Life
10. Ululations
11. Exile From Paradise

Added: October 25th 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Samadhisound Records
Hits: 1551
Language: english

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