Outer Space/Inner Space
is the third album from Flanger, a project consisting of Teutonic duo Burnt Friedman and Uwe Schmidt (aka Atomheart), two respected and impressively prolific producers in their own right. Individually they each have a reputation for creating sonically adventurous and deliciously irreverent music: their joint excursions are truly no exception. In contrast to their debut LP ("Templates", an intricate patchwork of fragmented sound sources designed to avoid loop-based structures) Inner Space...
seems to represent some kind of continuation of the space-age jazz ethos started (but sadly not maintained) by 1970s fusion dons such as Herbie Hancock and George Duke. Their playful and intriguing production techniques (stuttering beats, grainy pulses, random throbs) are added to by a host of live instrumentation--bongos, drums, analogue keyboards, vibes, sax--that throws up futuristic feel-good jazz-funk grooves. There's a range of flavours, from the thoughtful, meandering jam "Galak" and forthright funk of the title track to the wayward, frenetic electronic grooves of "The Man Who Fell From Earth" and the improbable time signatures of "Le Dernier Combat". Intricate, innovative, unruly and unpredictable, this is another essential instalment of the Flanger saga that will appeal to beat-headz, jazz-freakz and goatee-strokers alike. --Paul Sullivan
It's jazz, Jim, but not as we know it....Flanger's two previous records on Ntone recast early 1970s spacey jazz fusion as the product of a software engineers fantasy. Blurring the lines between what's been played and what's been digitally generated, Burnt Friedman and Uwe Schmidt's music was playful, eartickling and occasionally ridiculously funky. Friedman's solo work in particular (check 1999s wonderful Con Ritmo) has been playing with notions of real and cyber musicianship, forcing crisp, funk derived drum patterns into hyperspeed blurs that Jack DeJohnette would be hard pressed to replicate.
Inner Space takes things a bit further by introducing real instruments into the mix, courtesy of a bunch of Latin American rhythm players and Danish soloists. The resulting brew is warmer and more organic than previous outings; Thomas Hass's tenor and Carsten Skov's vibes provide a harmonic sophistication and coherence lacking in Schmidt and Friedmann's limited keyboard skills, leaving the duo to concentrate on providing texturally rich and rhythmically propulsive backdrops, which is after all what they're best at. The music here is in a constant state of flux; sonically incredibly rich and marrying warm Zawinul-esque Fender Rhodes piano with digital glitches, dubby atmospherics, intricate layers of percussion and Friedmans trademark drum manipulations.
The second half of "La Dernier Combat" drags the propulsive funk of Herbie Hancocks Thrust into the 21st century with a ferocious slap bass and percussion dialogue topped off by fat analogue synth riffs, while the opening "Outer Space/Inner Space" is possibly the strongest track, mainly due to Hass's probing tenor explorations which dig deep into Friedmann's intricate rhythmic matrix. Elsewhere the single "Inner Spacesuit" is a clavinet soaked groovathon, while the closing "Himflug" suggests the MJQ as the inhouse band on board a Cuban space station. Flanger's strongest suit is their refusal to lazily appropriate notions of jazz cool in the manner of many of the so called 'Nu Jazz outfits'. Theirs is a brave new world where the tenor saxophone and the Powerbook can sit happily alongside each other in a virtual jam session. (Inner)Space is the Place. --Peter Marsh
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