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Album review: Food's 'Quiet Inlet'

July 27, 2010 |  4:32 pm

Food240 In terms of mining the fertile ground that lies between jazz and electronic music, Europe has been eating the rest of the world’s lunch for years. While such a stylistic pileup can send some listeners into a tizzy of category-defining in a quest to slot a given album firmly in one discipline or another (particularly in the often fractious world of jazz), such things are particularly pointless when approaching the band Food.

Shifting through a variety of collaborators in more than 10 years together, the group led by U.K. saxophonist Iain Bellamy and Norwegian percussionist Thomas Strønen traffics in an atmospheric, improvisation-heavy sound that turns further inward for the band’s first release with the ever-contemplative European label ECM. Joined at various points by Nils Petter Molvær on trumpet and laptop deconstructionist Christian Fennesz on guitar and electronics, “Quiet Inlet” is a record full of wide-open spaces and subtle conversations.

On tracks such as the hushed “Chimaera” and “Cirrina,” the rhythm is no more than tinkling chimes or a gently brushed snare, emphasizing lush, sinewy horn passages that build to a dialogue with a secondary melody so distant it's almost subliminal. Songs such as “Tobiko” and “Mictyris” are more direct, rising out of a percussive world beat clatter akin to the techno experiments of Moritz Von Oswald. Bellamy’s saxophone weaves through a bed of fuzzy textures from Fennesz, who became a bit of an indie rock darling with the 2001 album “Endless Summer.”

Though the record often recalls the dreamy, immersive world of Bennie Maupin’s “The Jewel in the Lotus,” at other points it drifts into a sort of ambient monotony as Bellamy’s saxophone becomes too smooth for its own good. Still, at a time when genre borders have become all the more meaningless, “Quiet Inlet” offers an often enchanting place to visit.

-- Chris Barton

“Quiet Inlet”
Two and a half stars

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