Barre Phillips
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:

-A brief career synopsis
-A recent interview from the estimable All About Jazz
-Details about compilation of his work with Surman in The Trio

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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.

Category Barre Phillips, John Surman

16 Responses to Topographies

  1. Thanks for the Barre Phillips! Unfotunately, all three links seem to point to the same track.

  2. I didn’t know you were out there in 2006, so here are my top three reactivation requests from the stuff that I missed: Jimmy Lyons (September 27), Ric Colbeck (December 17), Sun Ra (August 20). We are in desperate need of cheering up in rainy, rainy England, so every bit of good music helps… Enjoy your vacations!

  3. Josh — Thanks for letting us know. Hopefully the problem is now solved. Our server seems to be intensely buggy.

    John – Thanks for the picks! We’ll see what we can do.

  4. Hey, thanks for the Barre Phillips, I just heard the Dave Holland/Barre Phillips duet disc the other day, great deep listening music.

    My only re-up request is the James Blood Ulmer post from Black Rock, which I don’t own and somehow missed last July. Blood has a new album out called Bad Blood in the City that got savaged in Downbeat; anyone heard it yet? I haven’t.

    Anyway, happy summer and thanks for the great music,


  5. Any chance of Ornette and Carnegie Hall ?
    (I’m repeating myself, I know.)

  6. Love the Barre Phillips, thanks for the tracks. It’s interesting you mentioned Supersilent, because I can definitely see the intersection. A live show they put on in Chicago several years back remains a top live listening experience of mine but it’s never translated to disc for me. Barre Phillips seems to understand an aspect of the music and an approach that comes across in recordings very clearly.

  7. I second the request for Ulmer’s Black Rock.

  8. Your site has been a constant source of delight for me over the last year. Long may you run.
    I’d love you to repost the Spontaneous Music Ensemble track that you had up a few months ago – that was a killer! Do you have any more like that?

  9. can’t remember if there were any posts i kicked myself for missing, but i’m happy to “third” the request for more blood…

    that first piece is fonkay… i like it :)

    the other two are way too close to whale music for my liking (how predictable was that?) – i mean too obviously ecm for me to be totally comfortable with the sound, though eicher has indeed captured the bass (and drums) very well as usual… really not sure about those synths

    naturally i now want to hear the “goblin” piece, but i have to admit i shan’t be buying the album…

  10. Mr. Phillips doesn’t live in a monastery, just next door to a church.

    Great record from a great artist.

  11. Hey guys, once again, thank you for running a fantastic site. My request for a re-run would be the Last Exit tracks. Missed those, having trouble finding it in the store.

  12. I just found this record as well as Three Day Moon, for seventy-five cents apiece, at an antique store near my hometown. Thanks for all the work you fellows do!

  13. Mountainscapes is one of my favourite albums full stop. Has anyone ever come across a Surman project called MUMPS? They were a short-lived group(happily I saw them play live in Newcastle back in the 70s) and featured Surman, Phillips, Albert Mangelsdorf and (I think) Stu Martin on drums. I lost the album about 25 years ago and have never heard it since. Any help in tracking this one down would be greatly appreciated.

  14. i love this album (anything with phillips on it is usually great imho). and you’re right about the goblin comparison, though even spookier is the similarity of VIII’s riff with gong’s ‘masterbuilder’.

    never trust a hippy!

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