Ill-Considered (Liran Donin, Idris Rahman, Emre Ramazanoglu)
(Kings Place Hall Two. 10 July 2021. Live review by AJ Dehany)
I used to switch the lights off and listen to the Velvet Underground in the pitch black darkness, as teenagers must. The dark sound world of improvising trio Ill-Considered makes me want to do the same. With characteristic intensity, the group has released nine albums over three years, as well as several filmed gigs including LIVE NOT LIVE, which is a monster of dark groove-based jazz that would turn to dust in daylight. Physical copies of their albums become hard to get very quickly. In late 2020 they made all of them available to stream. I wondered what they would be like live at King’s Place with the lights on.
The group, led by Idris Rahman on tenor sax, shares the zeitgeisty urbanism of groups like Sons of Kemet but with fewer concessions to conventional structure, preferring a greater range of improvisatory freedom. They have at various points been augmented by other musicians but now tend toward a trio, even a power trio. The group explores Indian and Arabic inflections of the jazz language with a hard driving edge, made all the harder for the replacement of Leon Brichard recently by Liran Donin. His darkly propulsive jazz-rock style, whether blasting chords on an electric bass or, at Kings Place, slapping a taishōgoto (大正琴) (or Nagoya harp), is only one element of the talent he brings to the group. The diversity of their musical language is worn lightly and played very hard indeed, rhythmically but not predictably.
Emre Ramazanoglu’s setup on drums/percussion interestingly places the ride cymbal centrally in the kit. The unsung hero of jazz percussion, the ride typically ‘rides’ the music semi-covertly while the snare and hi-hat saddle all the attention, and nobody ever realises its importance. Ramazanoglu’s setup points to a mind that isn’t just content to whack a backbeat to maintain a heavy sound. At points in the gig, Ramazanoglu abandons the kit and plays with a chest-held drum with a beautiful resonance. The restriction of the palette adds to the tribal intensity of the group. Liran Donin’s taishōgoto brings an ethnic feel too, as well as his and Rahman’s frequent use of arabic ornamentations. With the sheer force of much of the group’s work Idris Rahman necessarily plays phrases, made in the moment but clearly articulated so as to give the music a punch. The message of the music is jammed out in dark grooves with minimal prepared material. The absence of overly complicated jazz chord progressions releases him to play more melodically. The characteristic Ill-Considered sax motif is an ornamented melodic theme lower in the instrument’s register, but at times he knocks it into the upper partials and harmonics with some discreet electronic coloration.
There’s a Kōan-like statement by ECM founder Manfred Eicher that “Nothing is more mysterious than clarity”. Over years I’ve felt that the room of King’s Place Two can do anything; it has the great sound of a concert venue and the greater intimacy of a club, so it’s perfect for jazz, which is a visceral listening music… which, failing other descriptors, might be a good description of Ill-Considered. Here the clarity of the drum sound cutting through against the bass and the sax immerses you in every aspect of the playing, even with their subtle use of delay/echo and fx to saturate the sound. Many of their albums were recorded at Total Refreshment Centre and for all the clubby urban vibe of that place, it was still a ‘venue’. KP2 is a slightly more formal setting than TRC or some ideal dirty basement studio, but the team there know what they’re doing, and you can hear everything at every gig. Yet it remains mysterious.
Jazz-related music is blessed by a rich history of live recording. It always repays repeated listening, which is a frustration of the ephemeral live experience as opposed to recorded work. But the atmosphere counts for so much. In the room, I missed the visual style of LIVE NOT LIVE film with its impossibly, oppressively close camera work and saturation in dark red light. There were some lighting cues but the Goth-As-F ideal would be outfitting the whole room in red bulbs… or, hear me out, one flickering red bulb in the centre of a rusty metal cage and the fire exit signs switched off. There’s an immersive situational quality to the music that borders on theatrical, in an anti-theatrical way. That’s not to say the group isn’t immensely watchable. Idris Rahman lowering the horn between his legs, Liran Donin whacking the hell out of the bass, Emre Ramazanoglu’s immersive use of percussion. But they’re one of those groups whose music has a mysterious intensity, especially on those albums and denied the visual element. The visceral listening music of Ill-Considered is worth removing the bulbs for.
AJ Dehany writes independently about music, art and stuff. ajdehany.co.uk