By Mike Gates
AMIIRA ‘CURIOUS OBJECTS’ LP/CD (ARJUNAMUSIC) 4/5
Occasionally, a trio comes along that is re- freshingly different. It can be due to the in- strumentation used, but more often than not it’s down to the musicians themselves, col- lectively creating new music together, break- ing boundaries with their explorations and even perhaps inadvertently reinventing the fine art of trioism itself. Amiira is one such group. Featuring Klaus Gesing on bass clari- net, soprano sax and effects, Björn Meyer on electric bass and effects, and Samuel Rohrer on drums, electronics and mod synths, the threesome return with their new album “Curious Objects”.
After a layoff of six years, this latest release offers a clear expansion of the players’ abilities; retaining the fundamentals that guided their debut album – spatial- ity and refined coolness, with a strong narrative quality – whilst also enhancing an individual oeuvre that exists within the majesty of the music they make.
Individually, all three musicians have chartered a diverse and inter- esting course through their music. Multi-instrumentalist Klaus Ges- ing is a writer, player, bandleader and teacher on the vanguard of jazz. His collaborations with Italian pianist Glauco Venier led to the trio with Norma Winstone and five critically acclaimed albums on Universal and ECM, the label with which he also recorded with Oud player Anouar Brahem. ECM also released Björn Meyer’s solo re- cording “Provenance”, with the bassist also having worked with An- ouar Brahem, along with many contemporary groups, including Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin. Drummer Samuel Rohrer’s CV is a veritable ‘who’s who’ of European jazz, having worked with such luminaries as Eivind Aarset, Jan Bang, Wolfert Brederode, Trygve Seim, and Banz Oester. Collectively as a trio, they bring with them a wealth of experience and a whole host of fascinating ideas, making for a highly captivating listening experience.
The album is beautifully recorded, the clarity and atmosphere cap- turing perfectly the natural sound, colours and textures that the trio create. An ambience of inner energy sparks a thought-provoking fire through subtle percussive brush strokes, melancholic clarinet, and subtle yet expressive guitar tones. Eloquent interplay brings the ten original tunes to life with bold imagination and sensitive creativity. A fine example of the trio’s overall aesthetic can be heard on the mes- merising “Concentric”, where an initially subdued horn sequence furtively sneaks around the corner, mischievously gaining in pres- ence and volume, enhanced by the deep groove of the repeating, cyclical bass. Elsewhere, a more richly contemplative approach can be heard throughout the album on tracks such as the excellent open- er “Garden of Silence”, the eery “Nostalgia”, the curiously beguiling “Now That We Finally Met”, and the warm-hearted “On Second Thought”. There’s a sentient, reflective feel to the music across much of the recording that I really like, and ultimately even more reward- ing with each and every listen.
An album full of refreshingly original musical ideas, “Curious Ob- jects” isn’t so much about purposely breaking new ground, as being an album that quietly revels in a free-thinking musical exploration. The tunes are well crafted with a sense of ease and enjoyment com- ing over in a very likeable way from the collective creativity of all three musicians.
May 7 2023
By John Marley
Due to its relatively young age, the bass guitar is still growing both physically and sonically. The instrument has long been treated with mistrust and even contempt in more traditional jazz circles where it is seen as a poor substitute for its larger, older brother. This makes ECM’s first release of a solo bass guitar album all the more welcome.
It is easy to imagine that the only people interested in a solo bass guitar project would be fellow bass guitarists. However, this would be to ignore some exceptional music created by the likes of Jonas Hellborg, Michael Manring and Skúli Sverrisson. On Provenance, Björn Meyer has taken the instrument in to more ethereal realms. He does this by exploring the bass guitar’s relationship to the acoustics in which it is performed.
The opening track Aldebaran is built on subtle and solemn harmonies. The sounds being created are almost unidentifiable as a bass guitar. Meyer creates textures which emulate the flow of the tide. The tone of the notes being created is fragile and passes through the ears like a gentle breeze.
Much of the compositional material is built around mournful arpeggiated chords. The appeal of the music is how Meyer goes on to manipulate these foundations and how the glacial changes in texture draw the listener in to a state of relaxation. The chord structures draw influence from the dark ambient and post rock genres. The problem with chords on the bass guitar is that they can sound too dense. However, the bass is beautifully recorded with great clarity between the notes.
Meyer does make use of driving rhythms on tracks such as Three Thirteen. The sliding noises between the notes which are normally undesirable in bass recordings become part of the composition. The squeaks sound like small animals rummaging around the great oak of a bass line. On Squizzle, the chords are aggressively strummed giving the piece its throbbing pulse.
The aptly titled Traces Of A Song, uses a distinctive melody line which is interwoven with subtle harmonies and countermelodies. Looped harmonics become the foundation to a series of notes which fall like raindrops on to its shimmering floor. Much of the emotional drama of the music comes through Meyer’s use of dynamics, occasionally bringing moments of joyous hope in to otherwise downbeat surroundings.
Meyer has taken a unique approach to composition for solo bass guitar. It is one that will move the instrument forward as much as it will move the listener emotionally. Provenance is a welcome edition to the catalogue of ECM and the canon of solo bass guitar recordings.
By George W. Harris
Bjorn Meyer plays six stringed electric bass as well as the acoustic bass with sounds that you’ll swear come from either the classical guitar or mellotron. These twelve songs range from mystical and foggy backgrounds akin to The Hound of the Baskervilles as on “Aldebaran” and “Garden of Silence” to elegiac strings a strumming during the pastoral “Traces of a Song” and title track.
At times Meyer brings both acoustic and electric together, with an edgy background hiding behind the drapery on “Banyan Waltz” while “Pulse” mixes a drone groove infused with a folk melody. Tapped strings of joy bring buoyancy to “Dance” and percussive rhythms get rocking on “Three Thirteen.” This isn’t your grandfather’s bass!
October 16, 2017