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Review: 'VOLE'

-  Label: 'Babel Label'
-  Genre: 'Post-Rock' -  Release Date: 'April 8 2013'-  Catalogue No: 'BDV12102'

Our Rating:
This is a very fresh and punchy sort of improvised jazz that a lot of non-genre people would be very pleased to meet. I'm thinking of people who might have loved Captain Beefheart, Robert Fripp or Bilge Pump. People who might flip to Resonance FM or Late Junction now and then just to refresh their musical souls. My own jazz references are so limited that I'm perfectly happy to be told by those in London improvised jazz circles that this particular work is safe, or risky, or copyist or carelessly unhinged. I don’t mind. Those who really know London Jazz improv (hi Steve) will know all that and they probably know the album anyway, so it doesn't matter. What I can say truthfully is that coming from outside and finding this set of eight tunes has been a joy. The more I listen the more I hear.

What I could hear on the first play through, from the first number to the last, was enthusiasm for exploratory composition on the run and a delight in the sounds that the players' instruments can be coaxed into making on their own, in parallel. or in exhilarating dislocation. The paradoxical auditory search for pattern as well as surprise is fully rewarded. The whole musical gamut is covered, the sounds are celebrations of what devotees can do to make a listener chuckle, swoon or groove.

Drummer/percussionist Javier Carmona comes from Madrid, spent seven years in London and then moved to Barcelona. This album, and the VOLE ensemble (now a quartet) came into being in London. Carmona's role is strong. He's right there on the first beat of "No Knees" and he scintillates for the next 50 minutes of the album, driving, nudging, punctuating and responding with unsurpassable energy and variation.

As well as playing with VOLE Roberto Sassis also plays in a South London band called SNORKEL. They make inventive noises in rock/dance/funk shaped forms. With VOLE he shows his talent for playing less linear, more moment-to-moment stuff but his presence on the album confirms what I was suggesting about the wider interest the VOLE could (and should) get from an audience more attuned to complex or challenging rock formats.

Roland Ramanan, trumpet player in the trio that recorded this album, has his own ten-piece jazz ensemble (ROLAND RAMANAN TENTET). His voice is strong. It matches the drums and guitar for inventiveness and subtlety. It opens "Voiced, Unvoiced" with a soulful lament of epic shape. He plays a lush and confident lead on closing track "Before" and he matches Carmona's beats for percussive energy and sudden changes of sound on "Tim's Favorites"

In summary, this is an approachably complex album. Listen one moment at a time, and let each moment be as long as you want it to be. Let yourself listen as freely as the trio are playing, with just as much concentration as they give to each note or sound. Waste no time trying to get it. Let it get you.

  author: Sam Saunders

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