Review: Food -Iain Ballamy (Saxophone) & Thomas Strønen (Percussion) with guests Alex Munk (Guitar) and Kit Downes (Organ)
(Forge Venue, Camden, March 28th 2011, review by Roderick McKinley)
This concert was a wonderful way to wind down the day. Starting alone, Ballamy and Strønen set up a calm meditative space. Various bells and gongs alluded to eastern sacred music as the saxophone offered its prayer. Their outputs were augmented by electronics which opened up the space in the music further with delays, reverberation, and ambient harmonic drones.
Strønen displayed a ranging virtuosity spanning a breadth of percussive ideas. Textures varied from minimal micro-patter (reminiscent of electronica group Mum’s more minimal beat-palette); to intricate, rolling, polyrhythms; to complex abstract rhythmic sentences, some figures from which he surprisingly span into a groove. These cannot be convincingly delivered without pin-needle accuracy, which he effortlessly exercised.
It was not of the music for Ballamy to show off similar technical virtuosity. Nevertheless, he impressed with his unwavering focus and heartfelt involvement – absolutely necessary for the phrases to be as compelling as they were. These tended to be smooth with a few open intervals, often employing note duration for expression – often I was drawn to recall the opening bassoon lines of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
Guests Munk and Downes joined midway. To some extent, they supplanted the role played by the electronics in the first half; the organ now providing drones and the guitar echoing and countermelodying the sax. Having these elements under human control also helped avoid the odd fits which sometimes result while triggering automatic electronic loops, though electronics still were used to layer effects as earlier.
Both Munk and Downes were sensitive and true to the understated and ambient character of much of the music. They melded well all together, providing a welcome enrichment to the sound palette.
It was a refreshing pleasure to attend a concert of improvised music which wasn’t fixated frantic energy and chaos.