ECM : 1976
BP, bass; John Surman, soprano and baritone sax, bass clarinet, synthesizer; John Abercrombie, guitar; Dieter Feichtner, synthesizer; Stu Martin, drums, synthesizer.
Chilly Jay Chill: Mountainscapes sits at a number of different crossroads. European and American sensibilities. The mix of jazz, rock, and classical approaches. The results are a kind of Euro Space Rock. Fascinating stuff.
Drew LeDrew: It’s also a watershed ECM record. You can hear the label’s trademark icy production style, but there’s still enough rough edges to these tracks to keep things unpredictable. The sound is high altitude without being airless.
CJC: Neither of us are generally big fans of what’s known as the typical ECM sound, but it really works here. Seems like this record may have been an influence on some of the recent Rune Grammafone releases. Supersilent‘s work, in particular.
DLD: I’m not entirely sure I hear that. But maybe I can’t get beyond thinking how this is a Euro version of In A Silent Way. But funkier. Especially on the first track.
CJC: And also more ambient. The synth textures and static pulse of the second piece remind me of Brian Eno‘s soundscape work from the same time period. It’s a more plaintive version of Discreet Music.
DLD: Yeah, though what’s unusual is that while many of these tracks feel static, there’s a fair amount of movement in the music. Which is a cool effect.
CJC: It’s also interesting how this recording differs from Barre Phillips’ previous work with John Surman and Stu Martin as part of The Trio. All the keyboards add an entirely different dimension. Of course, you can hear some of the similarities too – like on track four.
DLD: Perhaps it’s because I’ve heard that Phillips now lives in a monastery [see comment below], but this album seems to have an extra spiritual dimension beyond The Trio. I picture pairs of shoeless pilgrims ascending snowy peaks, stopping occasionally to say prayers to stone idols and meditate over steaming cups of tea.
CJC: I think maybe you’re getting carried away by Barre’s beautiful bass tone. And by the fact the tracks conjure a fairly consistent mood. Although “Mountainscape V” sounds more than a little like Goblin, the prog-funk band who did the eerie soundtracks for Dario Argento’s operatically gory horror flicks.
DLD: For that track I picture shoeless pilgrims being chased by machete-wielding midgets in an abandoned disco. Wait a minute — why didn’t we pick that track?!
CJC: Maybe to encourage all the Goblin fans out there to track down a copy of the European edition of this album for their very own.
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More information about Barre Phillips:
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R.I.P: Unrelated to jazz, but close to our hearts –a tip of the hat to the great Taiwanese filmmaker Edward Yang who passed away over the weekend. His engaging, epic, and deeply humanist masterpieces Yi Yi and A Brighter Summer Day are must-sees for any serious cinema fans.
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SUMMER SCHEDULE: We’ve got some surprises and plenty of great music lined up for the summer months, but we’ll also be slowing down a bit to accommodate vacations, etc. We’ll be averaging about one new post per week, supplemented by some choice re-runs. If there are particular old posts you’d like to see reactivated, drop us a line in the comments.