Food Molecular Gastronomy

[Rune Grammofon; 2008]

Styles: breakbeat jazz
Others: Humcrush, Tortoise

With two members now departed, the Norwegian duo Food returns with the electronically infused meditation Molecular Gastronomy. Ten years of experience has seen the group morph from an acoustic ensemble to a futuristic duet that plays impressively original (and beautiful) improvised pieces. Helped out by Ashley Slater and Maria Kannegaard on keys and effects, Iain Ballamy and Thomas Strønen, the band’s remaining core, should be written deep into the pages of sonic jazz innovation with this latest release.

To imagine how fresh and unforced Food’s sonic aesthetic is, take the sticky cheese-whiz of any Bela Fleck sample (i.e., cash registers, cow bells, animal calls), and reverse the polarity completely. In a genre so notoriously focused on theory and traditional harmony over aural innovation, Food is a welcome black sheep. And make no mistake; this is not watered-down “ambient jazz” or easy listening. Fragments of hard-bop and Ornette Coleman-style freakouts speckle the album’s 10 tracks. The best moments come when Ballamy acknowledges pieces of his electronic rhythm section, which occur primarily on “Appartus” and “Alchemy,” two capstones that subtly frame the album’s action.

This interplay would be fine on its own, but when coupled with Strønen’s wildly inventive rhythms, the result is akin to finally locating a hidden image in one of those damned Magic Eye pictures. With drum sounds resembling Homogenic on speed, Strønen never misses an accent, while varying timbre enough to keep it interesting. With such a rhythmic onslaught, it’s fortunate that Food also know when to let the listener breathe, incorporating a few 'freer' compositions into the album’s mixture.

With Molecular Gastronomy, Food have proven that less is more. There’s a sense of connection, undoubtedly the result of intimate musical partnership, that makes the successful moments on the album sound as unforced as Kind of Blue. The fact that Food’s record can achieve even a fragment of the natural gist of Miles Davis’ masterpiece speaks volumes about Molecular Gastronomy’s historical value. Despite the occasional lapse into a drum sound or synth sample that seems too artificial, this album is a vitally beautiful harbinger of the shape of jazz to come.

Most Read