Food

Mercurial Balm

(ECM)

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Originally a quartet, Food survived the loss of one of European jazz's most distinctive voices, trumpeter Arve Henriksen, and bassist Mats Eilertsen, by focusing on the ability of English saxophonist Iain Ballamy and Norwegian percussionist Thomas Strønen to create beautiful music spontaneously with electronica and shrewdly chosen guests. Their second ECM album finds them working with guitarists Christian Fennesz and Eivind Aarset, trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer and, in a move that blends their icy, cave-like atmospheres with Hindustani improvisation, singer and slide-guitarist Prakash Sontakke. Strønen is variously stealthy and industrial but always intently musical and Ballamy majestically unhurried as scenes unfold and melodic ideas develop to the sometimes yearning strains and occasionally considered crunch of Fennesz and Aarset's guitars. Sontakke's arrival is a masterstroke, his vocal bringing an achingly intense, gripping quality to Chantarelle and his guitar lending a stinging emotional counterpoint on the gorgeously minimalist title track.

Rob Adams