Oct 8 2015
The newest from the Underpool studio & label might just be their best-to-date. It’s the way big statements emerge from out of nowhere, and how incisive melodicism evolves from within the randomness of improvisation. Underpool 4 ranges in expression from electro-acoustic groove to straight-ahead post-bop to a shimmery Brian Blade Fellowship nu-jazz, and all of it is anchored to strong melodies and driven along by conversant rhythms.
Bringing together various artists from the Barcelona scene for short-term collaborations, the Underpool studio & label provides an outlet for musicians to contribute compositions to the session while learning to adapt to and improvise on the compositions of their ensemble mates. For the newest, it’s a quintet formation, and the way they come together is solidly reflected in the bold, anthemic passages.
It starts out with a bit of sleight-of-hand, not immediately revealing the trait that will come to define the album. The seemingly innocuous mumbling of “Impro 1,” through sheer force of will and sonic accumulation, becomes a heavy drone with a heavy presence. This feeling of intensity and depth hits a full bloom on “Praia de Moreré,” with its thick melody warm as sunshine and bold as the sun.
The trumpet-tenor sax duo of Àlvar Monfort and Lucas Martínez blasting away on the melody on “Plus” is plenty dramatic, but resonating even stronger is when the ensemble drops the intensity to the floor, and the guitar of Jordi Matas entwines with saxophone around the melody, stating it much more sweetly while letting the beauty shine as strongly as it roared. That it’s immediately preceded by a deceptively languorous opening and an undeniably chaotic middle only makes the effect that much more profound.
Drummer Pep Mula has a nifty way of guiding a tune at a brisk pace and yet still freeing his quintet mates to choose slower speeds when the moment seizes them. “Tot es Desfà” has a song in its heart and practically whistles out the melody, but it’s the way in which that melody is strung out across the peaks of the cadence, notes allowed to linger in the air, building anticipation for the next expression. And then in the latter half, when the song displays its combustible side via electric guitar, the resulting directness creates a tantalizing bit of contrast to the extreme patience displayed in the opening. And all of this is shaped by the preceding ballad “Song for Alba” and the way it points to the path ahead with moonlight, thick with melancholy and just as soft.
The quirky “Una de Zombies” is something of the exception that proves the rule. Electronic murmuring accompanies fragmentary melodic statements that take an indirect route to their final destination. There’s no fireworks and there’s no huge pronouncements, and the way this song diverges from the predominant mold that other album tracks have been cut from is abundantly obvious and strangely compelling. In much the same way a black sheep can give further definition to the group identity, so does the meandering “Una de Zombies.”
The album ends with “Impro 2,” the mirror vision opposite of opening track “Impro 1.” The finale works an electro-groove and euphoric shouts of melody for some laid-back tunefulness. Bolstered by the groundwork set by keyboardist Abel Boquera, each of the quintet members raise up their voices with an off-the-cuff looseness that sometimes trails away in opposite directions and sometimes converge upon one another, creating new sounds out of old.
Just another very cool, very engaging new release from the Underpool Collective. Expect me to be writing more about that label’s other recordings, but start buying now.
Your album personnel: Àlvar Monfort (trumpet), Lucas Martínez (tenor sax), Jordi Matas (guitar), Abel Boquera (keyboards) and Pep Mula (drums).
Released on Underpool.
Visit an artist site.
Listen to more of the album at the label’s Bandcamp site.
And speaking of other writing on the Underpool label, here’s a LINK to a write-up of their second collective release, Underpool Dos!