Jul 11 2012
Nils Berg Cinemascope – “Popmotion”
The world is big. The world is small.
The compositions on Popmotion are inspired by videos that Nils Berg Cinemascope found on Youtube and Vimeo, of people from all across the planet, from places as varied as Brunei, Ghana, Sweden, the U.S. and Japan, expressing themselves through music. A few of the videos were filmed by Berg himself. Others were found while sitting in his home. A whole wide world of music coming together in one place, inspiring more music.
As Nils Berg explained to me in an exchange of emails,”The overall idea is to prove that there could be music, or great art, anywhere.”
Basing his compositions around these videos, and in some cases, inserting samples of the music directly into the music, Nils Berg took all these disparate elements and focused them through his own creative vision. He collaborates with the world.
Your album personnel: Nils Berg (tenor sax, bass clarinet, computer, synth, zither), Josef Kallerdahl (bass), Christopher Cantillo (drums, percussion, synth, zither), and various guests as attributed to each video.
On the inclusion of segments of the videos that inspired each composition, Berg said, “We really have to love these performances by the video guests, and care for them to make them thrive and blossom. You just have to look carefully, and be open to the fact that everyone is expressing themselves with heart and soul, and are great musicians or performers.”
It is easy to forget that they aren’t all in the same room.
In Japan, a roomful of musicians are rocking out on koto. Berg gives their music wings, lifting off on bass clarinet with languorous notes that contain a deceptive propulsion. Cantillo’s percussion adds permutations on the kotos’ hypnotic rhythm. Kallerdahl’s bass blends in with the kotos, guiding from within as if they were in the studio together, collaborating on the song “We Are Nobody.”
On “Benibanatsumiuta,” the trio gives the airy sound of a bamboo flute a dark undercurrent, a probing inquisitiveness to what, by itself, was a lighthearted reminiscence. And despite the emotional shift, they all sound on the same page, with the same motivations and aspirations, as if the finished product was what they each envisioned, though their contributions were performed on different parts of the world at entirely different times.
By combining the sound of a traditional song performed solo on an African gyil and a 19th century Christian hymn performed on bowed dulcimer, and then adding their own instrumentation and visions, Berg’s trio creates “Accra Underground,” a modern jazz piece with a polyrhythmic shuffle and a zig zag bass clarinet.
Yellow flowers fill the screen on”Benibanatsumiuta,” which begins as a Japanese folk song on bamboo flute and koto. The Cinemascope trio simply add their own gentle textures to the mix, leaving the meditative qualities of the song undisturbed while, simultaneously, making it a more nuanced performance. Berg’s bass clarinet is a prayer lifted up to the skies, and Cantillo’s percussion the sounds of a silent planet waiting for a reply from above.
Berg’s bass clarinet is the deep counterbalance to the airy notes of the cimbalom on the Romanian folk music of “Marlon,” which the trio guides into a nifty groove. As much as any album song, it displays the care and craftsmanship the trio deftly applies to the composition’s original source music as they bring the music off a city street in Slussen, Stockholm and into the recording studio.
A performing troupe of musicians and dancers from Tamil Nadu set the table for Berg’s winding notes, Kallerdahl’s loping bass lines, and Cantillo’s percussion, scattered like stars, on the song “Orissa (In the Hands of the Lord).” Voices raise up, mirrored by Berg’s woodwind, the sounds playing off one another though each miles apart.
I love an inspired theme. When an artist presents a creative premise, I am all over seeing the project come to fruition. But really, there is a value and nobility to inspired ideas that, in some ways, make the outcome irrelevant. Creative ideas, like dreams, are building blocks of our humanity, just as they bind us to one another, and proof that as vast as this planet may be, we are all connected.
On Popmotion, Berg finds a way to exemplify both the vastness of our music breadth and the connections that tie it all in together.
Released on the Hoob Records label. Jazz from the Stockholm, Sweden scene.
Videos that inspired album tracks can be found on Berg’s site HERE. I include a few below.
Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist and label.
Available at eMusic. Available at Amazon: CD | MP3
Here’s one of the videos that Nils Berg & Company used as the inspiration for the tune “We Are Nobody” (streamed above). Various musicians in Osaka, Japan.
Here’s one of the videos that Nils Berg & Company used as the inspiration for the tune “Accra Underground” (streamed above). It is Aaron Bebe Sukura performing a traditional African piece on the gyil.
And here’s a video of a live performance of the Cinemascope trio incorporating the video into a live performance of an album song…
Sep 13 2012
São Paulo Underground – “Três Cabeças Loucuras”
Mixing genres and influences can be a heady process, and the risks are numerable. To then attempt to simultaneously advance those art forms forward raises the stakes to an even higher degree. On one hand, blending genres can result in the best of qualities washing each other out, and leaving a sanitized version of What Once Was. On the other, even if the genre-mixing experiment works, the stab at innovation can transform art into dissertation, and turn creative interaction into just another classroom exercise.
That on Três Cabeças Loucuras, the São Paulo Underground were able to blend the Brazilian-psych-trip of Tropicalia of the 60s and the new-millenium-introversion of modern post-rock, and then focus it through a matrix of laptops, electronics, and effects with the end result of a thoroughly delightful and engaging album, it’s an accomplishment that is truly remarkable. It’s also terrifically fun music.
Your album personnel: Rob Mazurek (cornet, electronics), Mauricio Takara (cavaquinho, drums, percussion, electronics), Guilherme Granado (keyboards, loops, samplers, percussion), Richard Ribeiro (drums), Kiko Dinucci (guitar), and guests: Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), John Herndon (drums), and Matthew Lux (bass guitar). All of the main players also lend their voice to sections of album songs.
Originally founded by Chicagoan Rob Marzurek and Brazilian Mauricio Takara, the group has expanded its breadth of sound over the course of three albums, and what was once a sparse dissonant music has grown into a constantly flowing ever-present auditory sensation.
This is an album with infectious danceable grooves, wailing coronet lines, the crackle and pop of electronics, psychedelic reflections and echoes, strong builds up to soaring moments and sharp downturns of song deconstruction. Most admirably, even the moments that bring the noise have a pleasant charm to them, not dissimilar to the odd warmth of an ugly laugh.
The Brazilian rhythms imbue the music with an amicable chatter, and the post-rock embrace of simple yet mysterious melodies bring a feathery blush to quick-step tempos. The laptop effects and electronica flourishes are anything but superfluous stabs at “being modern”… they provide ornamentation to the architecture of the tunes, and spotlight the beauty inherent in the organic foundation of traditional instruments. The keyboards are the rich soil from which everything incubates, and though there is no overlooking the keyboard’s presence, there is a graceful understatement to the way it comports itself. This music is joyful and euphoric and, at times, it could induce a little dancing… but the musicians allow that to happen on its own, without becoming overly melodramatic, without getting in the listener’s face. For an album of music that is so drenched with sound and dynamics and textures, it’s an album that lets the listener come to the music.
And you couldn’t get an invitation any better than from the music on Três Cabeças Loucuras.
Released in 2011 on the Cuneiform Records label.
Available at Wayside Music.
Available on Amazon: CD | MP3 | Vinyl
NOTE: São Paulo Underground are currently on tour. They’re mostly hitting spots in the middle section of the U.S. Follow this link to the Cuneiform website for tour dates. I’ll be seeing them in Kentucky on both dates. Hope to see some of you there.
By davesumner • Jazz Recommendations, Jazz Recommendations - 2011 Releases, Recap: Best of 2011 • 0 • Tags: Recap: Best of 2011