Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble
The Moment's Energy


With The Moment's Energy the Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble appears to arrive at a (definitive?) condition one could maybe define as "modern classicism". A definition that looks a bit strange for a line-up that's so unusual when it comes to its goals and its mixture of instruments, and that was conceived by a saxophone player whose name in many ways - first, but definitely not only, for his innovations when it comes to the language and the dynamics of the solo saxophone, mainly soprano, and for his "elastic" approach to improvisation - for a long time now has been synonymous with "modern". The fact is - if one only plays down a bit some of its timbral traits (and not that many at that, if one only remembers all that "modern classical avant-garde", starting with Ligeti) - The Moment's Energy makes so natural a use of such things as "crescendo", "smorzando", "tutti" and "soloist plus ensemble" that it could easily be presented in any Festival of Contemporary (Classical) Music worth its name. Which is definitely something few would have expected (this reviewer not being among them), five albums ago.

The Moment's Energy is the fifth album by the Ensemble, whose line-up today consists of (let's take a deep breath): Evan Parker, soprano saxophone; Peter Evans, trumpet, piccolo trumpet; Ko Ishikawa, shô; Ned Rothenberg, clarinet, bass clarinet, shakuhachi; Phillip Wachsmann, violin, live electronics; Augustí Fernández, piano prepared piano; Barry Guy, double bass; Paul Lytton, percussion, live electronics; Lawrence Casserley, signal processing instrument; Joel Ryan, sample and signal processing; Walter Prati, computer processing; Richard Barrett, live electronics; Paul Obermayer, live electronics; Marco Vecchi, sound projecting. The "new names" here are Evans, Ishokawa, and Rothenberg, the latter being the one whose work this writer knows best (I also recall a duo album he recorded with Evan Parker, Monkey Puzzle, about ten years ago).

Commissioned by the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, recorded in November, 2007 at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, mixed in February of the following year at New Gateway Studios, London, The Moment's Energy is a work in seven parts, followed by the brief Incandescent Clouds. While a couple long mo(ve)ments focus on the Ensemble, it appears to me that, more often than in the past, here Parker has highlighted the work of the soloists, who quite often play solo during the first part of the tracks: bass clarinet on Part II, trumpet on Part III, trumpet again on Part IV, piano and percussion on Part V, violin and double bass on Part VI. The electronic instruments are featured quite successfully everywhere, the only thing I regret is my not being able to tell who's who: in so differently from acoustic instruments, where the "accent" of the player plays a large part in making the listener identify who's doing the playing, here I can't really tell the "silicon soloists" (watching them live is not the answer, either, the laptop being the instrument whose sound is quite separated from physical gesture).

Part I has a lively development, quite similar to those stochastic distributions one can find in beehives, gases, and some of Evan Parker's soprano solos played with circular breathing; rich with variety, percussive, sometimes quite booming, the track fades out in electronic tones. Part II has the bass clarinet as its main soloists, followed by an "electronic storm" rich with different layers. Part III features a "mellow-sounding" trumpet, then modified and filtered; then a "tutti", a sax arpeggio, electronics, and "cut". Part IV has a meditative trumpet enveloped by "ambient" sounds, in the end sounding like a bizarre, up-to-date version of In A Silent Way. PING! (cut).

Part V features for the most part (prepared) piano, and percussion. While violin (also sampled?) and double bass are the main soloists of Part VI. Part VII has a "tutti", saxophone, trumpet, shakuhachi, muted trumpet, an "heroic" choir from the synths, with the second part of the piece featuring a fine close of synthetic "wide stripes". A "synth-percussive" mix opens Incandescent Clouds, a track that - though rich with variety - doesn't really sound to me as being the album's complete, appropriate, definitive, ending - more like Part VII being the real close, with this track working as a kind of encore, perhaps?

In closing, I think it can be said this is a work of merit, whose crystal-clear recorded sound and fine degree of availability, when compared to a lot of music of a similar kind, could make one logically hope for a fine commercial success.

The only thing that puzzled me was the very different recorded sound of both Part IV and Incandescent Clouds, compared to the rest of the album. The CD booklet lacking any real liner notes, I decided to access the record company's Web site, where I found the album notes, featuring this sentence: "On the present recording, only “Incandescent Clouds” , and Part IV of The Moment’s Energy are from the Huddersfield concert, the majority of the music being drawn from sessions in the days leading up to it". Just as it had happened with the Ensemble's previous CD, material that could definitely be useful to listeners' understanding of the music is not featured in the CD booklet. Sure, it could be said that this stuff is not really necessary to one's understanding of the music, but if so, why is this online (and also featured in the Press Release?)? I do believe that nowadays anybody forking 19 euros deserves a bit more.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2009

CloudsandClocks.net | Dec. 7, 2009