Posted on Dec 17th 2009 12:49 am
CIRCULASIONE TOTALE ORCHESTRA
Rune Grammofon 2009
12 Tracks. 171mins31secs
Led by Norwegian saxophonist Frode Gjerstad, Circulacione Totale Orchestra is an ever-changing formation, which he started in the mid-eighties as a forum for musicians to experiment with improvised music. Over the years, CTO has counted as many as thirteen musicians in one performance, although it is more usual to find around ten members at any one time. In this particular incarnation, CTO features two slightly different casts of internationally renowned musicians such as drummer extraordinaire Paal Nilssen-Love, noise authority Lasse Marhaug, Morten Johan Olsen (drums and electronics), who is regularly found fuelling the rhythmic section of MoHa! and Ultralyd, American cornet player Bobby Bradford, an early collaborator with Ornette Coleman, or Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten, of The Thing and Scorch Trio, and a long-term collaborator with Nilssen-Love, on acoustic bass, to name but a few.
Something of a mastodon release, Bandwidth, CTO’s fifth album, their first for Rune Grammofon, spills over three CDs and almost three hours. The twelve tracks were entirely recorded live, at the Molde International Jazz Festival in 2008, and at more recent outings in Moers and Zürich. A hefty set, even for the most adventurous of listener, Bandwidth is almost impossible to absorb all at once without getting lost in the vast terrains that are collected here, so rich and complex are the textures, rhythmic patterns and instrumentation. Ranging from cataclysmic noise clouds to driven grooves to totally fluid and corporeal moments of deep calm, this album constantly challenges expectations, coming out in wonderful melodic flourishes when one expects noise, exploding into heavy progressive streams when a peaceful sequence would have been a more obvious choice or rushing into playful excursions when the mind was geared up for arid turns.
Each track, most of which go way beyond the ten to fifteen minute mark, is like a miniature version of the overall form of this record, with its own internal segments and mood swings. Of the three CDs, the first two, which feature the Molde Festival recordings, are perhaps the more angular and complex sets here, as the ensemble deploy an incredibly wide range of tones. At times, these cluster into so tightly held constructions that it is virtually impossible to isolate any particular section or identify with certainty who does what. As these eventually loosen up, and, in time, disintegrate, the role of each musician becomes clearer, more defined, but this never lasts long enough to fully enjoy the moment. These rare platforms have to be savoured quickly and on the spot, before things become more obscured, extreme and denser again. Yet, the tone is different from one CD to the other. While Yellow Bass & Silver Cornet II is in many ways extremely angular and rugged, the pieces forming Yellow Bass & Silver Cornet III appear, at least in parts, more appeased and nuanced, especially in the second and, to a lesser extend, third parts, before letting go once again in the last part.
The recordings making the third CD are generally less extreme and the delineation between the various instrumental sections of the ensemble at times seem slightly less blurred. If this occasionally makes for a slightly easier listening experience, these four pieces are fuelled with the same ethic and driven by the same approach and complement the earlier tracks by offering yet another side of this utterly eclectic and vibrant formation.
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