Food has defined a new kind of lyrical electro-acoustic improvisation in the course of its twelve year existence. Founded as a quartet in 1998, since 2006 the group has been a core duo of UK saxophonist Iain Ballamy and Norwegian drummer Thomas Strønen joined by guests for diverse projects. At the Molde Jazz Festival and the Oslo Blå club in 2007/8 their guests were trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, well known to ECM followers, and Austrian improvising guitarist Christian Fennesz, making his label debut. The resultant music, with melodic improvising, trancelike pulses, and shifting clouds of sound is highly attractive.
An album of lyrical improvisation, spacious atmospherics and dark pulses from the Food duo of Thomas Strønen and Iain Ballamy, joined by Nils Petter Molvær and Christian Fennesz – in performances captured at Oslo’s Blå club and the Molde Festival, in 2007 and 2008.
A decade earlier, Molde had hosted Food’s debut when English saxophonist Ballamy was invited to join three Norwegian players – Strønen, Arve Henriksen, Mats Eilertsen – for an experimental concert. The group ‘chemistry’ felt so right, from the first notes played, that the players continued as a band. For the next eight years, a Food quartet toured the world, also recording a series of well-received albums. In 2006, the group was revamped, with the core duo of Strønen and Ballamy henceforth joined by guests for special concerts and projects.
On “Quiet Inlet”, Food’s sixth album, and their first for ECM, Austrian guitarist and electronics player Fennesz is featured on the tracks “Tobiko”, “Mictyris”, “Fathom”, while Norwegian trumpeter Molvær appears on “Chimaera”, “Becalmed”, “Cirrina” and “Dweller” (making this NPM’s most extended appearance on ECM since “Solid Ether”). In these open ended improvisations, the contexts are shaped by Food’s priorities, the emphases upon melodic playing, textural development and the creating and exploration of sound-environments. The acoustic aspects of Food’s music, with drums, bells, blocks gongs and lyrical saxophone, are enhanced by the use of live sampling as a structural element. The scope of expression runs, in Food’s words , “from minimalist to very turbulent.”
Both Iain Ballamy and Thomas Strønen are well-known figures in contemporary jazz and improvisation. Ballamy, who came to international attention in the 1980s as a member of the Loose Tubes collective and Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, continues to play with Django Bates in configurations including the group Human Chain. He has also worked with an extraordinarily wide range of bands and projects – from Hermeto Pascoal, Gil Evans and Mike Gibbs to Charlie Watts, the Karnataka College of Percussion and Billy Jenkins,– led his own ensembles, written music for films, and taught at London’s Royal Academy and Trinity College. Food’s first recordings – “Food” and “Organic and GM Food” – were released on Ballamy’s own label, Feral Records.
Last year Food – Strønen /Ballamy plus Arve Henriksen – appeared with the London Sinfonietta, premiering a new work by Iain Ballamy, “Gold Acre.” The work was commissioned by BBC Radio 3, who had previously presented Food with the Innovation Award in the wider context of the British Jazz Awards.
Nils Petter Molvær came to ECM with Arild Andersen’s band Masqualero, appearing on three albums for the label, “Bande à Part”, “Aero”, and “Re-Enter”. He can also be heard on recordings with Robyn Schulkowsky (“Hastening Westward), Marilyn Mazur (“Small Labyrinths”), Sidsel Endresen (“So I Write”, “Exile”) and Jon Balke/Oslo 13 (“Nonsentration”). Molvær’s “Khmer” and “Solid Ether” albums with their striking mix of electric trumpet (with echoes of both Miles and Jon Hassell) electronics and hiphop beats launched the still-influential ‘nu jazz’ movement. “Quiet Inlet” marks Nils Petter’s first ECM appearance since Arild Andersen’s “Electra” (recorded 2003/4).
Austrian guitarist Christian Fennesz came out of the Vienna techno scene of the 1980s to spread his layers of electric guitar and processing textures across a broad span of music. Amongst his many musical associations: work with Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Sylvian (he is prominently featured on Sylvian’s recent “Manafon” album), and free improvising guitarist Keith Rowe... Albums issued under Fennesz’s name include a series of critically-acclaimed recordings for the Touch label.