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on 10 November 2012
While unmistakably still the work of Thomas Strønen and Iain Ballamy, "Mercurial Balm" is an appreciably different beast from the excellent "Quiet Inlet". Longer, warmer and with a fuller sound , it is altogether more muscular if somewhat less focused and, at times, has echoes of the post My Bloody Valentine scene and the rockier elements of "Mezzanine"-era Massive Attack. Molvær, the dominant force in "Quiet Inlet" appears on only one of the ten tracks. In his absence, Ballamy's saxophone is relatively and absolutely more prominent. Six of the compositions feature only the addition of Christian Fennesz while three feature Eivind Aarset and Prakash Sontakke whose arresting voice is heard most clearly on "Chanterelle".

Atmospheric and undemonstrative opener "Nebular" is perhaps closest in conception to the sense of space of "Quiet Inlet" and, brilliantly, yields to the percussive thrust of "Celestial Food", coloured with splashes of soprano sax. The 9 minute "Astral" is the centrepiece in every way, featuring Ballamy's finest playing against a propulsive, syncopated background whose overall ,almost symphonic, sound stands comparison with the recent live release by Steve Reid, Keiran Hebdon and Mats Gustafsson . In its wake "Moonpie", featuring Molvær, almost seems like a lament but carries its own impact. In turn "Chanterelle", containing Sontakke's most prominent vocal and more liberated sax, has a suitably oriental feel.

While "Mercurial Balm" somewhat peters out and, overall, is more uneven than "Quiet Inlet", it contains colour, depth and highs which its predecessor does not and is ultimately equally, if differently, alluring. Highly recommended.
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on 11 November 2012
The follow up to 2010s "Quiet inlet"has arrived without any fuss aand favour,Thomas stronnen and Iain Ballamy have always made very original albums,thier previous albums were very strangely packsged in boxes with bay leaves and other freebies such as posters etc.
with this their second ECM they continue on thier momentous journey upwards and onwards.
1......Nebular......5.54...... starts very slowly and developes with what sounds like tuned percussion and abaritone saxaphone,this is very etherial and moody,this merges seamlessly into the following;
2......Celestial food.....4.24.......which immediatly becomes more rythymaatical,and gives an impresssion of the vast open vistas of The sarengetti,marvelous stuff
3.......Ascendant......6.00......is a slower paced tune more reminiscent of Jan Garbarek,or to a lesser extent Stefan Micus.
4......Phase.......3.47......another out of this world feeling track,Stronens drums well to the fore,with Fennesz's guitar providing the backing
5......Astral......9.07.....this piece gains from the extra playing time.
6......Moonpie.......4.33......another thoughtfull piece of Nordic soundscape with Nils Petter Molvaers wonderful trumpet playing.
7.....Chanterelle......3.46.....the only vocal on the album,it brings "Ragas and sagas" by Jan Garbarek to mind,fantastic drums and saxaphone on this.
8.....Mercurial balm......5.01.......the wonderful title trsck which has echoes of Terje Rypdal,this is absolutely exquisite, this reminds me of Ustae Fatah ali khan
9......Magnetosphere.....6.17..... absolutely marvelous
10....Galactic Roll......4.42......a particularly good way to end this album.
This is a record to treasure,some may find it hard to listen to,it is uncompromising and extreme,but it is ultimately magnificent.

RECORDED IN 2010 and 2011 in Oslo,Norway and Cheltenham,England
RELEASED IN 2012

THOMAS STRONEN.......DRUMS,PERCUSSION
IAIN BALLAMY......SAXOPHONES,ELECTRONICS
CHRISTIAN FENNESZ......GUITAR,ELECTRONICS
ELVIND AARSET......GUITAR,ELECTRONICS
PRAKASH SONTAKKE......SLIDE GUITAR,VOCALS
NILS PETTER MOLVAER......TRUMPET

ECM

53.45

BEST TRACKS......NEBULAR/CELESTIAL FOOD/MOONPIE
VALUE FOR MONEY......££££
PACKAGING......JEWEL CASE WITH BOOKLET,SLIPCASE
PRODUCTION.....SUPERB

CONTENDER FOR ALBUM OF THE YEAR
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on 3 December 2013
Highly recommended. I am not a jazz fan and this album is not jazz as we know it. It lives as one the permanent cds in my car.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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