Food ‘This is Not a Miracle’ (ECM) 3/5

foodCreated back in 1998, the musical collective Food has oscillated in composition over time, but two stalwarts have remained and they are multi-reedist Iain Ballamy and keyboardist/percussionist Thomas Strønen with a single new member in guitarist and electronica performer Christian Fennesz. Recorded in Oslo (but not at the usual Rainbow studios) over a relatively short period of three days and then re-worked over a further five month period in Str*nen’s own studio, this is very much a twenty-first century take on improvisational music with a heavy dose of electronica that will either endear or alienate depending on the individual’s capacity to taken on board contemporary beats. In parts it can be a disconcerting listen insofar as instruments can seem to be going against one another. However, it is also an album of beautiful moments and, in general, a sound that in some respects harks back to the early 1990s Jan Garbarek group recordings. The album works best on the layered textures created on synthesizers of the title track with the sparseness of Ballamy’s tenor and sheets of sound emanating from the percussion. A haunting combination of soprano saxophone and an experimental sounding percussion works a treat on ‘Death of Niger’.

On the other hand, some of the numbers are difficult to access with drum beats ever more discernible and intrusive on ‘Exposed to frost’. As befitting the use of electronic music involved in the editing process, Iain Ballamy’s own saxophone playing has not been spared from the cutting and this writer would have liked to have heard more of that contribution overall. The pieces are concise and for an ECM album and quite short with album as a whole weighing in at just under fifty minutes. Late November and early December dates in Ireland and the UK including the MAC, Birmingham on 2 December.

Tim Stenhouse