Ricardo Villalobos / Max Loderbauer Ricardo Villalobos / Max LoderbauerRe: ECM

8 / 10

Ricardo Villalobos / Max Loderbauer  Re: ECM ECM RECORDS

The best sleeves in the world are from the ECM label. Yes, most of them are landscapes, with a bit too much predictable pastoralness that might be associated with new age, but they are infinitely poetic, what with the calm waters, mountains, multi-coloured skies, cloud compositions and the intelligent use of the light (almost always the light of dawn). There’s a book, “Touching The Horizon” (Paul Griffiths and Steve Lake), which tells the long history of this German jazz label through, most of all, its sleeve art and passion for woods, polar scenes and mountain ridges. ECM’s slogan, invented by its founder and owner Manfred Eicher, is “the Most Beautiful Sound Next to Silence”: the label releases too much music for a poor record buyer, but the general level is high and an ECM record, as a sonic and visual piece (atmospheric jazz, renaissance and contemporary music and some world music), is most of all an irresistibly beautiful item.

Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer must have kept all of this in mind when they became members of the family and started working on this “Re: ECM”, which isn’t a DJ album nor a remix collection, or at least, not in the way the Deutsche Grammofon’s series “ReConfigured” was put on the market – a series in which electronic music luminaries were invited to remix some untouchable classical music pieces. Here, the ECM catalogue is the source (taking as a reference a record, but most of all the sound of the label) from which Villalobos and Loderbauer build their tracks. They describe the 17 tracks on the double CD as “sonic structures” in which they improvise freely with harmonies and textures, leaning on specific recordings (though the sampled material is quite lax, from records by Alexander Knaifel, John Abercrombie, violinist Paul Giger, Louis Scalvis, Enrico Rava / Stefano Bollani / Paul Motian, Arvo Pärt’s “Kanon Pokajanen” and, especially, the album “Fabula Suite Lugano” by Christian Wallumrod Ensemble), and which are strongly ambient.

Nothing new, of course, as ECM has always sought to unite the opposed worlds of matter and emptiness. The label catalogue stands apart because of its weightlessness, even when the music is by ethnic or free jazz musicians, and the duo’s selection (when it comes to the samples; everything else is a free construction in the recording studio) starts right there, in order to begin with the cleanest possible slate. That’s why it’s not a remix album; remixes are conditioned by a model you can ignore, but it’s not pure creation, either; “Re: ECM” sounds like it’s recorded with a lot of time and space, starting smoothly and growing into something unique and original.

What Max and Ricardo kept from the original is always what they could use best to create that feeling of half-dreamt fantasy (the harp improvisations on “Replob”, dissonant percussion supported by lazy pianos on “Recurrence”, a bass note on “Retimeless”, which sounds like jazz at 2000 meters below and on the bottom of the ocean, the manipulated voices from Pärt’s choir on “Rekondakion” and a spoken word piece on “Rethinkhiy”) that makes you forget time when you’re listening to it. On the other hand, and after a thorough revision of the final master by Manfred Eicher, the sound is 100% ECM - between icy and oxygenated - in the sounds and beautiful in the silences. “Re: ECM” might not be as brilliant as albums by other techno come jazz musicians (Moritz Von Oswald Trio and Vladislav Delay Quartet, particularly), but the final result is equally daring and very pleasant.

Robert Gras



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