It seems a bit odd to write about Ottmar Liebert’s Euphoria’s Nouveaumatic
on a website called JazzReview.com
; there is simply no way to write about this without throwing all definitions of jazz out the window from the start.
Liebert, a guitarist by trade, has indulged his electronic and world music impulses since 1990’s Nouveau Flamenco
. With this release, available only at tour stops and the Luna Negra website
(another project of Liebert’s), Liebert again retreads material. Content to work and re-work songs instead of creating anew, Liebert explores and exploits all available sonic material. Each track was featured on an earlier Euphoria, Luna Negra or solo recording. Nouveaumatic
is essentially a remix album, and an incredibly interesting one at that.
The disc opens with the lo-fi throbbing drum loop of "Twilight Rain." It took me until about the fourth or fifth listen to hear that what I took to be the scratchy sound of a vinyl disc was actually a sample of said rain. The track creeps along - it’s not until about 1:15 into the tune that we get anything resembling a theme - yet it draws its listener in. Liebert’s minimalist phrasing rides atop a bouncing and loose, but steady groove laid out in the bass and drum loops. If Medeski, Martin and Wood relaxed, this is what they would sound like.
Even as the disc does pick up the tempo and become a bit more frenetic during "Heart Still/Beating," "2 the Night," and "Snakecharmer," Liebert’s guitar offsets the rhythmic intensity by laying firmly behind the beat.
"Barcelona Nights" is perhaps the highest point of the album, where the groove gets funky (though I could do without the gratuitous samples of Sufi singing). While the rhythm loops drive ahead, something about Liebert’s own playing makes the intensity seem understated. This tune, however, is graced with a melody that will stick in your head for days. The last time through, it is punctuated with horn samples that recall Algerian raï.
While I do find it frustrating that this music is perhaps best suited to background noise at Starbuck’s or a trendy Manhattan nightspot, the music is still subtle enough and not quite pretentious enough to merit recommendation. At root, Liebert simply finds sounds that interest him and incorporates them into his own material - experimenting with different ways to mix and match the entire way. In that, the disc has an entirely improvisational quality. While I would hesitate to call it jazz, the air of experimentation and improvisation meets that of the best contemporary jazz has to offer. This is an incredibly engaging disc that has been in heavy rotation in my stereo for the last month.