Friday, 3 January 2014

Paulo Chagas on Splatter's 'Cloud Seeding' (originally published at www.jazz.pt)


'Cloud seeding’ seems a strange notion to be connected to something as fragile and enjoyable as the brand new album from Splatter, a London quartet headed by Noel Taylor and Anna Kaluza. In this work, entitled ‘cloudseed’, the band’s original rhythm section has been replaced by Portuguese guitarist, Pedro Velasco and Tom Greenhalgh on drums.  Also joining them as a special guest is the Polish bassist, Rafal Mazur. This is their third album to be released on Citystream, the personal label of British clarinetist Noel Taylor, who recently visited us at the MIA Festival.

When I listen to ‘cloudseed’ I am visited by pictures of past and present sounds from different places. The 13 tracks of this album seem to call out, urging us to be alive to the wishes of the forests, banishing the tumult of absurd and fiery noise through a self-contained industrial (digital) universe that balances and regulates itself. Blessed are those who live so completely in the now that they are able to live again within the disorder of an ageless innocence, free of dogma.

What Splatter give us is free improvisation which approaches jazz (and free jazz), rock and contemporary music, without being any of these things. It is almost as if, suddenly, the Rock in Opposition movement of the Canterbury Sound met with the impressionism of the Mediterranean, along with the neo-classical. This collective offers us a combination of sounds where we might stumble on the work of Théodore Dubois just as readily as those of Manuel de Falla, yet at the same time we can hear echoes of the dark American contemporary jazz personified by the likes of Curtis Hasselbring or Brad Shepik.

Don’t, however, think of this as merely a patchwork collection of wide ranging references, but rather as a thorough and conscious process of copious impregnation, as if drinking in influences from here and there were as vital and natural as breathing. The glory of the music made by some of the greatest and least pretentious creators possess this same prodigious quality : an appeal to an entire memory of previously seen (heard) pearls shining somewhere in time.

Appreciate and enjoy this interesting album as if you were flipping through an album of old family photographs, guaranteed to give true music lovers a generous helping of happiness.

Taylor’s sound is crystalline and delicate, always keeping a certain amount of sweetness in the clarinets, especially the soprano, even during the most daring passages. When he switches to the bass it is like the steady swing of a pendulum. The alto saxophone of Berliner, Anna Kaluza, interpolates something of the fuller quality of the language of modern European jazz. The guitar of our fellow countryman, Pedro Velasco, fills every corner of the album with a filigree ambience that superficially appears understated, but is truly assertive. Mazur proves equal to the task, providing an exceptional bass that is always more melodic than rhythmic.  The drums of Greenhalgh work as a sort of ‘boomerang’, switching the rhythm almost short of and almost beyond the pulsing time. All this movement of sound combined together is brilliantly paradoxical, taking us as close as possible as it gets to daydreaming.

Contrary to what some prophets of doom claim regarding an alleged crisis of musical creativity, we did find evidence here of an inexhaustible source of innovation, combined with great taste and excellent production quality. Rather than imitate, these musicians tried to recycle and reinvent old processes, thus presenting us with an inevitable evolution of forms. This has always been the highest virtue of the greatest artists throughout time.

Paulo Chagas, translated from the Portuguese and first published at www.jazz.pt

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