THE LIVING ROOM: Still Distant Still (Ilk Music)

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Posted on Jan 15th 2012 07:28 pm

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The Living Room: Still Distant Still

THE LIVING ROOM
Still Distant Still
ILK182
Ilk Music 2011
08 Tracks. 45mins31secs

Amazon UK: DLD US: DLD iTunes: DLD Spotify: STRM

The meeting of three extremely talented and respected musicians in their own right, The Living Room is a breathtaking formation with a particularly developed taste for complex avant-gardist jazz. Formed of Danish saxophonist Torben Snekkestad, pianist Søren Kjærgaard, also from Denmark, and Norwegian drummer and percussionist Thomas Strønen, The Living Room have, for their debut, devised a series of intricate minimal improvised pieces where they explore the outer reaches of contemporary jazz.

Still Distant Still is not an easy record to ease oneself into. Right from the opening moments of Tremolo Hiving, the tone is set: sparse percussions over which a sax flutters hesitantly, never gathering any more than a few notes at any one time. Later on, occasional piano chords, sombre and ominous at first, then lighter in the latter parts, drop seemingly at random. Despite its utterly disjointed and somewhat desolate aspect, there is something about the piece with instantly captures the imagination and the trio continue to bend this idea out of shape through the rest of the album. At times, like on the first of the two-part piece Twining, or later on with the title track, they appear willing to smooth the sharp angles of their improvisations, but they soon let utter abstract forms flood back in. Indeed, while Twining Pt. 1 is rather more melodic and refined than the piece that precedes it, Snekkestad and Kjærgaard actually working for a moment on complementing each other and developing a sustained progression, this all comes completely apart on Twining Pt. 2 as increasingly heavy strips of noise are torn apart, each instrument relentlessly fuelling the chaos which ensues.

Things start with Strønen and Snekkestad placing complex motifs against each other on the title track, and the level of intricacy increases drastically as Kjærgaard joins in, but after a few minutes, this is all brought to an end as piano and sax suddenly step into a much more atmospheric and sparse landscape, supplemented with discreet bells and rarefied electronic textures. Even more desolate and scarce, the underlay of tiny processed percussions and electronics which Strønen deploys on The Extinguished never provides enough grit for anything to stick to it for long. Kjærgaard attempts to let his hands runs on the keyboard, but to very little avail, while Snekkestad is often reduced to nothing more than a breathe. Stone Unturned is in comparison meatier and more consequent sonically, and, as with Twining Pt. 1, actually sees the whole formation work together to create a serene and refined sequence.

By contrast, Rainbow Stomp or Mustard Variations, whilst not as vivid and tortured as Twining Pt. 2, again denote a shift toward somewhat extreme abstract forms as all three musicians take on the sheer sonic experiment which is the binding force behind this formation.

All three members of The Living Room can boast of very impressive and eclectic work, but this project is undoubtedly at the more exploratory end of their respective scope. Complex, abstract and challenging Still Distant Still remains surprisingly evocative and accessible, a strong testament to the combined level of talent and musicianship collected here.

4.7/5

Torben Snekkestad | Søren Kjærgaard | Thomas StrønenIlk Music
Amazon UK: DLD US: DLD iTunes: DLD Spotify: STRM

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