Friday, April 25, 2008

Lisle Ellis - Sucker Punch Requiem

One of the advantages of the &etc slowdown is spending more time getting to know albums - less need for a quick turn around. Especially if the album suffers from first-track selection issues. It must be hard to pick the opener, and can be an issue - the Breketc album took a while to get past the two long improvs, and I remember when I went to hear PiL's Second Edition at the local record store they started with the second track as Albatross was thought to be not representative (Poptones on that album still gives me shivers, as does The Jam's Down in the tube station at midnight). Anyway, on to this release.

Created by Lesle Ellis, Sucker Punch Requiem (Henceforth 104) is 'An homage to Jean-Michael Basquiat' based around a group on voice/electronics, flutes, sax, trombone, piano, bass/electronics and drums/percussion. Planned by Lisle over an extended period, 2 days of recording, then editing/constructing finalising. Which brings us to the getting into. The first track is Summonings: this is a 3:40 minute musique concrete construction that reminded me of Wall or Doyle: voice, percussion and some of the instruments in a cut&paste collage calling on SAMO (a Basquiat tag). This continues in the opening of Incantation and ascent - bubbling electronica and manipulation. I listened a few times but wasn't in the mood for abstract expressionist music and so it sort of laid around, occasionally sampled when some other sides seemed to be striving for a hearing.

And then, during a full listening, I realised that there were two aspects to the album. A smaller part is the constructed stream, from the opening it appears in a number of 'interludes' - shorter pieces which are titled Perishable fig. 1a to 3. These create interesting contrasts to the longer parts, and carry the themes of the opening.
Most of the album, however, is more straightforward jazz from the group. In Incantation... a gentle piano comes in, modern romantic, sax and brush percussion and some electronica as background - all quite stately. Some of the shorter tracks feature sub-groups - X-ray gray has piano over a bed of bowed bass, Bas Relief bright piano/sax/percussion. When the whole group gets together for most of the other tracks there is a nice swing and groove to their playing, solos scattered throughout, shifting between subtle understatement, playfullness and some edgy improvs. The three tracks Colour bind (oracle)/Suicide study/colour bind (oracle) has the wind playing chordal progressions (which reminds me of Zappa I think) then the piano enters with bass and sax as the flute trills sliding into a flute/piano duet on the second track until a piano/bass/percussion trio takes the running and then returning to the chords for a running jumping group tilt at the oracle.

To conclude the album, Perishable Fig.3 invokes madness before Untitled (life stilled) is a gentle reflective group-based finale with haunting vocals. This album eventually unfolded its strengths to me - the balance between strong group pieces and the concrete elements eventually works once you get into the album. For some people there may be too much dissonance between the two components as the bulk of the album is accessible and fresh from an obviously talented ensemble. However, that accessibility should allow people to enjoy all aspects of this satisfying and complex work.

No comments: