Michele Rabbia / Gianluca Petrella / Eivind Aarset ‘Lost River’ CD (ECM) 4/5

“Lost River” is an evocative and richly textured album that falls into one of those beyond-category recordings that the ECM label appears to be focussing more on these days. Those familiar with the three musicians on this sumptuous recording will have a good idea of what to expect. If I was to categorise this session, it would be clearly labelled “ambient”, with drummer Rabbia, guitarist Aarset and trombonist Petrella honing their skills as they come together as a trio for the first time to produce this feast of mysterious and captivating music.

At the suggestion of producer Manfred Eicher, the three musicians recorded “Lost River” as a trio project, with, for the large part, improvised music being created with the use of instrumentation and electronics. Rabbia and Aarset had played many duo concerts together, as well as working together on other projects such as Andy Sheppard’s recent ECM releases. And as Rabbia had also worked with trombonist Petrella in other contexts, it does seem like a natural progression for the three to work together.

This album is all about sonic soundscapes and ambient atmospheres. The trio create a palette of sound rich with diversity, texture, colour and a beauty that flows naturally from one piece of music into the next. Guitarist Aarset in his element, once more utilising his unique skills that have seen him grow in stature as a true innovator over the past couple of decades. Rabbia, one of my favourite drummers, brings an intuitive and highly personal creative edge to the music, his textural, evocative drumming flowing freely alongside intelligently used electronics. The surprise here is possibly the integration of Petrella’s trombone into the mix. His subtle playing brings melody and purpose to the tracks, with the electronics and effects working extremely well together.

All three musicians share an obvious interest in utilising electronic music alongside conventional instrumentation as a means for conveying or enhancing emotional expression and for shaping the environments and atmospheres borne out of the music itself. The results here are at times startling, with moods and thoughts drifting in and out of consciousness as the music effortlessly rises and falls like a dreamy Nordic landscape.

Mike Gates