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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Delmark DE591



  1. Revisit
  2. Rocket Street
  3. Running Without Effort
  4. Tiring Holiday
  5. Almost a Good Mood
  6. Attention!
  7. Lipuko
  8. Casio
  9. Tar Man
  10. Watermelon from the 80s
  11. Gift
Kuba Suchar (drums, electronics)
Artur Majewski (trumpet, electronics)
Rec. 15-22 July 2009, Studio OPT, Wroclaw, Poland


As the first ever European jazz group to record for Chicago's Delmark Records, there is a good deal made of the parallels between Chicago and Poland in Raymond Salvatore Harmon's sleeve note. Mikrokolektyw's two members cite numerous influences, from Don Cherry to Dewey Redman, but with jazz being an interactive force and one of the few types of Western music left with a strong aural tradition, this is or should be pretty much a given.

As important is the associations called up by hearing this duo's fascinating approach. The trumpet and loop combination reminds me a little of Jon Hassel, although his more atmospheric and ambient soundscapes are a distant echo when compared to Mikrokolektyw's more dance-based rhythms. The title track Revisit has Kubar Suchar in a little pointillist duet with himself, playing muted and unmuted over a restless bed of electronic pings and a shifting ostinato. The strength of much of Mikrokolektyw's sound is the mixing of live drums with sympathetic electronic rhythms and additional music. The electronics make up a third player, Mr Moog, and the second part of Revisit has it playing bass to the live players melody and drum. In the infectiously driving Rocket Street the drum and electronic rhythm take the foreground, the bass keyboard sound emulating that famous opening to Weather Report's Birdland, but more often than not remaining unforgivingly on one note. This is one limitation of the tracks on this album. Though there is plenty of micro-variety within, the basic nuances within each track remain fairly constant. While you can get into the groove and enjoy a certain amount of development through the improvisation, it only takes a few seconds to be pretty sure about how things are likely to pan out. There aren't many secrets, and slower numbers like Running Without Effort are nice enough, but in terms of staying power and creative depth they miss an extra dimension or two.

I always enjoy instruments being made to sound like something other than their usual self, and Tiring Holiday has the trumpet sounding like a landing aircraft of some kind, and what sounds like a good deal of suffering with which we can all relate to a greater or lesser extent. The rumbling beat to this is also great fun but again, once established it carries on as an unyielding block. Deliberate and sustained repetition can be a superb creative weapon as has long been proven by groups like Kraftwerk and Lemonjelly, but their success is often in change and surprise, which more often than not is missing here. This approach, with the trumpet improvising over an ostinato, also brings to mind Weather Report's Dara Factor tracks, but again the single trumpet needs something extra to play off against. Perhaps Mikrokolektyw should consider working more with guest artists. One of my favourites is Almost A Good Mood, which wins in its simplicity: just a monothematic trumpet riff under which the drums have a ball, followed by a suitably funky but rather brief improv. This is immediately followed by Attention! which held mine less. I think the trouble here, as with many of these tracks, is that they sound like 'jazz studies' - good practice, but for repeated listening they need to be more than a springboard for potential development.

Lipuko is fairly successful, with a Bjork-like bouncy ball bass which creates variety through the finely textured rhythms of cymbals and snare drum. The wandering electronic secondary melody quickly becomes irritating however, like an alarm clock which won't switch off. Casio is another number which promises more than its five minute duration delivers, though I like the march feel and clapping hands. Tar Man has some nice gloopy electronic bass loops, over which Suchar provides Miles Davis muted trumpet shapes. Watermelon From The 80s has the effective element of chorale chords going on in the middle of rhythms and trumpet, the latter also becoming nicely multi-tracked into triads which suggest an effects pedal but aren't. The best tracks on this album are too short though, and we are played out with some uncomfortable sine-waves - not my kind of parting Gift.

I've enjoyed this album, but can't say it will have much staying power in my consciousness. I have the feeling this would work very well live, but like a selection from Maarten Ornstein's 'Modular Cookbook', this seems too much like work in progress to make an album of lasting merit. The idea of an 'Animal' style drummer hard at work with a rather dry trumpet player improvising next to him appeals greatly, and the inventive element of significantly contributing electronics is also one which should work - and does, for a short while. Either these guys are working too far within their comfort zone, or I'm asking for the kind of energy and excitement which will probably never really zing from these tracks without the addition of some third or fourth party. While my admiration for Mikrokolektyw's project is great and my belief in its potential knows no bounds, Revisit is more concept than content, and ultimately more skin than banana.

Dominy Clements

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