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

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This Is Not A Miracle

ECM 473 9039



  1. First Sorrow

  2. Where Dry Desert Ends

  3. This Is Not A Miracle

  4. The Concept Of Density

  5. Sinking Gardens Of Babylon

  6. Death Of Niger

  7. Exposed To Frost

  8. Earthly Carriage

  9. Age Of Innocence

  10. The Grain Mill

  11. Without The Laws

Thomas Strønen - Drums, electronics, percussion, moog, Fender Rhodes

Iain Ballamy - Saxophones, electronics

Christian Fennesz - Guitar, electronics

In the first instance, when they were founded in 1998, Food were a quartet. The numbers involved as well as the personnel have varied over the years since, but the Norwegian drummer and composer Thomas Strønen and the British saxophonist (also composer) Iain Ballamy have provided the nucleus of the group. On this occasion, they are joined by Austrian guitarist Christian Fennesz who also brings particular expertise in the use of notebook computers to help create improvised, multi-faceted, electronic music. Fennesz has been involved in the last three ECM albums produced by the group. Strønen has taken a set of improvisations derived from a studio-based session back in 2013 and reworked them for this recording. The result is undoubtedly adventurous music-making but perhaps best enjoyed by those who like a strong experimental flavour to their jazz. I was reminded of a recent Christian Wallumrød concert I attended which was a fascinating experience. Nevertheless, half the audience didn't quite know what to make of it and people afterwards were clearly either ecstatic or bemused.

Most of the tracks on the album are relatively brief, in the three to five minutes range. I found three of them particularly accessible.Where Dry Desert Ends has a repetitive theme but has a definite beat and features the impressive Strønen. The title track, This Is Not A Miracle, gives us a wistful Ballamy on sax with strong support from Strønen and a battery of electronic sound effects. There's a similar conjunction on The Concept Of Destiny. Elsewhere, Age Of Innocence is noteworthy for the pure tone of Ballamy, to me at this point reminiscent of Jan Garbarek. But listeners may differ, say, on the merits of the ominous, hypnotic Earthly Carriage or of Exposed To Frost which sounds like an ice-floe disintegrating at first and suggests a sound track to global warming in the Arctic. In any event, this is strange but haunting material, if at times short on melody. There is no doubting the musical chops of those involved but I suspect jazz purists may want to sit this one out.

James Poore

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