Kristjan Randalu / Ben Monder/ Markku Ounaskari ‘Absence’ CD (ECM) 3/5

An unusual line-up of piano, guitar and drums, but devoid of any bass, this group are completely new to this writer and their music has a strong improvisational feel, but somewhere between contemporary classical and minimalist improvisational music, but not jazz.
Some of the pieces are divided up into two parts such as ‘Lumi I and II’, and the informal feel has a repeated guitar motif and piano searching for sound. While the musings are pleasant enough, one wonders whether the compositions are actually strong enough to carry the album as a whole and this is certainly not an easy listening experience to digest. Rather, it comes across as an experimental work in progress that has yet to receive the final varnish before being presented. The nine and a half minute opener, ‘Forecast’, is a reposing number that is quasi-classical in style, especially in the use of piano, but the guitar of Ben Monder does enter into a rapport with pianist Kristjan Randahl, who has composed the majority of the pieces here and is the effective trio leader. Dissonnant guitar dominates on ‘Adaption I’, while the more melodic ‘Adaption II’ focuses more on the piano and to these ears is preferable. Recorded at La Buissonne and an inner sleeve featuring colour photos of the trio in discussive mode. Mark this down in the experimental ECM cannon of work.

Tim Stenhouse