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September 7 , 2005

New soundscapes

Three new ECM releases offer fresh interpretations of the concept of “ambient music” from independent perspectives.

“The Return” is the soundtrack of the Russian movie, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, which stunned the international press and won the Golden Lion as ‘Best Film 2003’ at the Venice
Film Festival, as well as dozens of other awards and accolades, Andrey Dergatchev’s almost ‘sculptural’ score blends echoes of an ancient Russia – glimpsed in folk songs and the sounds of the duduk – with contemporary noises of the street and the sounds of nature – rain and wind, gulls crying… Altogether an intensely evocative experience. In its physical approach to sound, “The Return” shares qualities with Godard’s “Histoire(s) du Cinéma” and “Nouvelle Vague”.

Jon Balke has been a familiar presence at ECM for many years and is known as master arranger, jazz composer and orchestrator as well as a first-rate improviser and pianist, but “Statements” by the collective Batagraf shows him in an entirely new mode. Launched in Oslo in 2002, Batagraf was originally a “private research forum” into organic drumming, intending to “bypass the rigid grooves of the computer age”. Playing bata drums and other percussion, Balke and friends explore the idea of messages encapsulated in sound. Young Norwegian saxophonist Frode Nymo makes a strong showing, and guests include Sidsel Endresen, Arve Henriksen and Miki N’Doye. The end result is a celebratory and involving riot of sound.

“The Eleventh Hour” is the fourth album from Evan Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, the critically acclaimed group formed by the English saxophonist to explore the nexus of free improvisation, modern composition, and real-time electronic sound processing. Recorded live in Glasgow, with an eleven piece band including old friends Phil Wachsman, Paul Lytton and Agusti Fernandez as well as contemporary composer Richard Barrett, “The Eleventh Hour” presents music of great invention and vast spatial depth.