Food/Vladislav Delay/Eyebrow, Union Chapel, Islington, London, 12/11/2009


Posted on Nov 13th 2009 01:07 am

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Food/Vladislav Delay/Eyebrow, Union Chapel, Islington, London, 12/11/2009

Pete Judge and Paul Wigens form Eyebrow, a trumpet and drums duo which is found somewhere on the cool headed side of jazz. With pretty impressive CVs under their respective belts, each having performed alongside the likes of Super Furry Animal, Cousteau or Natasha Atlas, the pair were first to take the stage at the Union Chapel this rainy November evening. In the twenty minutes or so of their set, Eyebrow created a rather impressive series of jazz-infused tracks. Judge, on trumpet, assisted by a delay pedal borrowed from Vladislav Delay, and a few effects, provided the melodic structure, often in light floating strips, over Wigens rather delicate drumming. With just enough time to perform five pieces, the pair concluded with a piece, apparently taking its name from a location situation below Leeds station, which saw them push up the rhythmic aspect of their performance for a moment before retiring all too quickly.

A man with fingers in many pies, Finnish musician Sasu Ripatti delivered quite an usual record as Vladislav Delay this year, swapping the heavily diffuse electronics of previous records for a more stripped down sound. On Tummaa, Ripatti was found on drums and percussions, while additional contributors Lucio Capece and Craig Armstrong brought a very different dimension to his sound. Performing as a duo with Capece, this set found its ground closer to traditional Delay territory, with Sasu Ripatti on electronics, having, for practical reason perhaps, abandoned the drums, and  Capece on pretty much anything else, predominently a saxophone and a bass clarinet from which he extracted a surprisingly extensive range of sounds. Partly assembling textures from Capece’s continued input, at times torturing them into impressive delays, at other processing them as part of the fabric of the music, and dressing them with rumbling echoey beats, Ripatti was, in most parts, dominating, yet the partly improvised nature of the set left things pretty open for the pair to weave sounds and noises into characteristically spacious atmospheric pieces.

Despite seemingly working each on their side, with very little visual communication, it was occasionally difficult to know exactly where Capece’s input ended and Ripatti’s processing started, so intricately fitted were the raw and processed. At times, a particular sound would appear to come from Capece, yet it would continue long after he had moved on to other devices, occasionally mutating into something entirely new or left to slowly decay in the background. It was as if the sound sources fed to Ripatti were taking a life of their own, bouncing against or colliding with predefined electronic components and piano textures.

While there was clear demarcations between tracks, the set was performed in one stretched, with no breaks in between pieces, and if there were occasionally echoes of Tummaa, the pair’s performance appeared overall improvised. Not quite what one would expect of a Vladislav Delay solo performance, yet not framing Tummaa‘s exquisite textures, this was yet another persona that inhabited Ripatti this evening.

British jazz saxophist Iain Ballamy is one of these musicians who can as easily slip into the cosy outlines of smooth jazz as step into deeply atmospheric experimental improvisations. At the helm of Food, originally a quartet he formed over ten years ago with drummer Thomas Strønen, trumpetist Arve Henriksen and bassist Mats Eilertsen, Ballamy has produced five albums, two published on his own Feral Records, three on Rune Grammofon. In recent years, Food has become a duo following the departure of both Henriksen and Eilertsen, Ballamy on sax and Strønen on drums, percussions and electronics.

Sole on stage for the first segment of this set, Strønen  laid some delicate rhytmic forms, tinted with gamelan undertones, progressively building a sequence solid enough for Ballamy to come in and dispense soothing fluid sax drapes without drowning the drums. In this particular formation, the dynamic between the two musicians changed throughout in very organic fashion. Often, Ballamy appeared to lead the way early on in a piece, working warm enveloping melodies, some layered, delayed and distorted by Strønen as he provided delicate percussive counterpoints, making extensive use of his panoply of drums, bells, cymbals and other percussive instruments, but at one point or another, it was he who was taking the lead by suddenly switching into much sturdier rhythmic patterns or increasing the intensity of his game, Ballamy retreating, feeding on the trance or applying delicate brushes.

Toward the end of the set, Food expanded to a three piece formation when the pair were joined on stage by guitarist Mark Wingfield, who added guitar fragments which he processed on a laptop. Or at least that was the impression as there was very little evidence of these at sound level. At one point, while Strønen was deep in a rich and maddeningly driven groove, Ballamy retired to the back for a moment, leaving Wingfield to occupy the space, but even this didn’t quite work, and, with the curfew just gone, it was time for the band to bid the audience good night.

Icon: arrow Iain Ballamy/Food | Vladislav Delay | Eyebrow (MySpace) | Rune Grammofon | The Leaf Label

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2 Responses to “Food/Vladislav Delay/Eyebrow, Union Chapel, Islington, London, 12/11/2009”

  1. Colinon 13 Nov 2009 at 8:59 am

    Good to meet you finally last night. Good review, you don’t hang around! I really enjoyed Vladislav Delay – fascinating to see the interaction/processing of the two of them. My impression of Sasu as Vlad is that he very much does improvise within certain parameters, responding in the moment to the ebb and flow of sound. At least that’s what I saw also in his solo set at the Offf festival in Lisbon earlier this year.

    I found Food a bit disappointing, Strønen is always impressive, but Ballamy’s contributions were just a little too melodic, too straightforward. He commented that it was all freely improvised, but I wished for either some kind of preparation or rougher edges. I think the guitarist got stagefright! A shame as he might have provided a necessary wildcard. The duo was much more impressive a couple of years back at the Norwegian centenary concert at the Barbican.

  2. themilkmanon 13 Nov 2009 at 10:21 am

    It was really good to finally meet you too. We’ve had a few near misses in the past and I really can’t believe it’s taken all that time. In recent times, I’ve been using an app on my phone which allows me to type a review as things happen and then upload it to Google Documents when I get home so I can finish on the computer. It hasn’t always been that quick, but
    it certainly speeds up the process a lot.

    I enjoyed all three sets and had never seen any of the acts in the past so just took their sets at face value. I was actually hoping from drum action from Sasu so was quite surprised to see him sticking to electronics, but I guess it was partly for practical reasons. Seeing Lucio so close distracted me a fair bit, which didn’t quite work for me. The music could also have dome with being a bit louder I think to be more enveloping.

    Thomas Strønen was totally amazing to watch up close. Drumming is much more than hitting things as hard as you can and watching him certainly brought that up clearly. I saw Ballamy accompany some “smooth jazz” guy earlier this year and was actually surprised it was the same Ballamy playing in Food, but I guess musicians need different outlets for their work and enjoy different things. Last night was definitely quite gentle but I do like tha aspect in Food so it didn’t bother me. Hopefully I’ll get to see a more involved set from them sometime.