The experimental companion project to the ever-prolific The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble return with another in their line of dark, sprawling, yet utterly compelling meisterwerks. Egor was recorded live in Moscow during a tour, back in April 2011, and contains four lengthy workouts that span almost seventy minutes.
That’s a lot of darkness, my friends.
Sinuous sounds uncoil, languidly, sinisterly across time. Growing from the haunting sound of Sarah Anderson’s violin, for the most part, gaining body and mass from the other players before taking flight into realms of musical fancy via the kind of interplay – lead by founder members Jason Kohnen and Gideon Kiers, on bass and electronics respectively – that can only be gained through years of playing together.
There may be an improvised angle to the structure of the music on Egor but it is couched in an organic structure, it feels natural. There is a sense of langour to the recording, as sounds unfold like a sleepy river, but there is still that edge of darkness and a tautness too, but rest assured, you’ll find no self-indulgent excess fat on these musical bones.
Somewhat inconveniently, the titles for all four tracks are rendered in the Cyrillic alphabet, forcing me to refer to them by their numerical order as opposed to by name, but there is a sense of continuity that runs throughout making it easier to just discuss Egor as a whole.
A sample of snatched or found dialogue just on the edge of coherence, making identification of source or language difficult, opens proceedings as Anderson’s violin and Hilary Jeffrey’s trombone circle around one another in a ghostly vapour of smudged and smeared sound. Gradually, other sounds creep in – clanking, chinking percussive noises at first, then chiming guitar from Eelco Bosman and formless vocals join the fray – until all of the elements of TMFDC’s sound palette are in play.
All of the sounds begin to focus and gel together as the drums become more regular and forceful, bass begins to play a regular pattern and trombone becomes the most prominent instrument, growling brassily over a lazily building rhythm and ricocheting electronic touches. Things coalesce, but also start to move from out of one anothers gravitational pull as Charlotte Cegarra’s wordless vocal ululations become ever more strident until the band suddenly pulls tightly back in again in preparation for the next track.
A haunted outer darkness, looser and freer than that which came previously, this second piece is subdued for the most part – driven by low-end and tom-toms – until a sudden cacophony erupts, spiralling, effected violin, trombone and hissing electronics leaping up from out of the darkness to grab the listener unawares, building into looping trombone flurries and warped fluttering’s and mangled metallic shrieking’s that tail off and degrade into the darkness once again as the end draws near.
The audio detritus of the last track carries through into the background of track three, hissing and warping beneath violin arabesques and droning brass. A pulsing rhythm building up in intensity then erupts into a cyclical frenzy of throbbing brass and fractured echoing vocals, as the electronics begin to howl once more. Spent after their frenzied ejaculation, the instruments grow silent, as though fallen into an abyss, from out of which gradually emerge treated scratching, crumpling sounds and random textural fizzes and snarls, backed by shimmering, plangent guitar, slowly becoming overpowered by general cacophony.
Finally, the end is reached via sixteen minutes of dark, dark minimalism, built entirely from distant, half-heard sounds and treated drones. Trombone, violin, vocals and electronics combine in mournful drift that is full of the dead of deep space. The band could go no further.
As worthy a listen as any of their wonderful back-catalogue – and much less weighty and oppressive than their set at Roadburn this year – Egor is an extensive, expansive listen, yes, but most definitely a recommended listen for anyone who is either looking for a way into this experimental project, as an fan of TKDE, or any music fan with the patience and good taste to want to hear a group of musicians play dark music so intuitively and so damn well together.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson