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Eclipse by Ear & Now

Amirani Records, an impressively eclectic and adventurous Italian indie label, scores again with "Eclipse" by Ear & Now, a co-operative musical venture featuring multi-instrumentalists Alberto Morelli, Paolo Cantu, and Xabier Iriondo backed by a shifting cast of players - many of whom appear on only a track or two. This CD is all over the place, stylistically, though the focus is on non-jazz improvisation, altered ethnic music, experimental soundmaking, and a subtle atmosphere that effortlessly shifts from the malevolent and creepy to the puckishly humorous. Many of these rather brief pieces could work quite well as a soundtrack to an experimental film, which is not to say that this is background music - far from it, in fact. Despite the 'soundscape' nature of much of "Eclipse", the goofily juxtaposed cultural reference points and strange combinations of Western and non-Western (often untempered) instruments with primitive electronics is guaranteed to disorient and startle even the most casual listener. This music sucks you in. You can't not listen.

The majority of the tracks on "Eclipse" are somewhat amorphous. De-emphasizing rhythm in favor of texture and atmosphere, many simply hang there suspended in the air. Cantu, Iriondo, and Morelli are fascinated by bowed metal sounds, odd or obscure ethnic instruments, or common instruments played in unusual ways. At various points, you will hear Tuvan throat singing, the sounds of coins rolling across drumheads, multiple prepared guitars, and the recorded and electronically treated voice of Rosa Corn, a traditional singer from Valle dei Mocheni, Trento, Italy. The most impressive thing about all of this is how well it's all been integrated into a coherent musical statement.

Yet, when the band kicks out the jams, as on the title track, it does so with a vengeance. This ever-shifting, insistently rhythmic piece sounds like an outtake from an early 70s Soft Machine session, or perhaps even Miles Davis' 'Get Up With It.' 'Third Ear Dance' is both less funky and less harshly electronic, but no less bracing and features a particularly beautiful multi-tracked oboe solo by Roberto Mazza. The very brief 'Terra' is similar, only with saxophonist Gianni Mimmo and trombonist Federico Cumar waxing eloquently over percolating tablas. Personally, these three tracks are my favorites, but the whole disc literally brims with interesting ideas and an active, human curiosity that I find particularly refreshing. "Eclipse" is not for everyone, but will surely please those already accustomed to experimental sounds à la Aktuala, Don Cherry, the Residents, and Fred Frith. If you know what the 'NWW List' is, you'll definitely want to check this disc out.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ear & Now
  • CD Title: Eclipse
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Amirani Records / Wallace Records
  • Tracks: Ssshhsleeping, Ai Moi moi, Starting Eclipse, Pairidaeza, 1000 Little Glowing Insects Will Dance In The Garden Of Eden, Testa di Serpente Velenoso, Sole, Eclipse, Totenlob, Ending Eclipse, Luna, Third Ear Dance, Ritornoalleoscuremaniere, Terra
  • Musicians: Alberto Morelli (harmonium, Rhodes, Hammond organ, guitar, electric bass, dotara, whistling, harmonica, autoharp, piffero, vibraphone, bendir, percussion, bells, treatments), Paolo Cantu (guitar, prepared guitar, clarinet, Farfisa organ, whistling, treatments), Xabier Iriondo (guitar, mahai metak, autoharp, koto, whistling, treatments), Rosa Corn (voice, spoken word), Stefano Stefani (voice), Gianni Mimmo (soprano saxophone), Federico Cumar (trombone), Cristian Calcagnile (drums), Federico Sanesi (tablas), Roberto Mazza (oboe)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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