Igloo Magazine - Jan Bang "And Poppies From Kandahar"


(August 2010) Jan Bang... it's one of those memorable names that you see on the sleeve notes of albums all the time, and you often remember it for that rather than for the specific nature of the contribution - you know... because he's in everything. The name could be seen in the sleeve notes of many a release on David Sylvian's Samadhisound label too. Now, all of a sudden, here it is emblazoned in giant white-on-black letters across an exquisite digipak, and it's one of the most singular releases the label has put out in years.

...And Poppies from Kandahar is in many ways a typical project for Jan Bang: collaboratively manifold, multi-instrumental, musically and tonally diverse and most importantly blessed with a selfless, generous and ensemble approach to the work by all of the artists involved, permeating every aspect of the album right down to the equal billing of John S. Lunde as simply "Exhaust Fan". This may be the first album to see Jan Bang at the helm in years, but even with his name stamped on the project it is still very much a collaborative work.

Familiar faces abound and it's no surprise to see Arve Henrikson's name all over it; Bang has worked closely with him for years, most recently co-writing and arranging 'Cartography' to the extent that it could just as easily have had his name on the cover and Henrikson's on this. Here Henrikson lends his unique, breathy, mouthed trumpeting and scarily high-pitched vocals to the mix in sampled and specially recorded forms, Nils Petter Molv�r and Jon Hassel provide trumpet solos in their own unique styles, and Erik Honor� - regular collaborator and member of Punkt - is also in residence providing organic electronic wizardry. David Sylvian himself has provided the titles for each piece (something he's incredibly astute at), and Sisel Endresen delivers typically quirky vocal passages.

But the construction of ...And Poppies from Kandahar is centered around Bang's technique of "live sampling" taking it beyond the simply collaborative. Rather than using samples from existing recordings, Bang collects libraries of samples from fellow musicians as they perform on stage (often at the Punkt festivals themselves, particularly during the pioneering live remix sessions), until the sampler literally becomes all the instruments. They can then be manipulated and added to a composition in the way Bang would play them, an Aarset guitar solo looped here, a vocal pitch-shifted and inserted there. Any single track might ultimately feature samples of original compositions, improvisations and live performances from numerous and disparate locations, sometimes recorded years apart. And so, rather than simply incorporating samples, ...And Poppies from Kandahar is predominantly built using them, often so seamlessly that any audible evidence of sampling is erased.

There can be no better example of this than the nine-minute masterpiece "Passport Control," the ticks and pops of its delicately pulsing heart in fact the looped sample from Kammerflimmer Kolektief's Jinx album referred to in the sleeve notes. This key element spreads its roots so thoroughly through every other aspect of the piece that without foreknowledge of the sample it would be undetectable. The same is true of the sampled trumpet passages from Hassell and Henrikson that grace this epic along with Aarset's deliciously exotic guitar strumming. One of the most memorable moments on the album purely because it is both the longest and the most linear, it is steeped in humid, high pressure atmospheres and intrigue, evoking tense encounters in some remote African location, all wood-panelled rooms, ceiling fans, curls of thick, pungent cigar smoke, the ambient noise of heavy rain hitting lush vegetation and churning dusty roads into mud outside.

Even in its more free-form jazz moments ...And Poppies from Kandahar is still peppered with diverse elements that become rooted in the memory, helped along by the album's omnipresent sense of shifting unease. "Heidegger's Silence" is memorable as much for its striking moments of unexpected percussive clonks as it is for the deeply cinematic and moody musical cues of Wagner as played by the Pielpaja Symphony Orchestra. Similarly, the charisma that "Abdication and Coronation" exudes is as much down to its tip-toed, tinkling musical phrases - so at odds with the imagery of figures of great pomp or infamous circumstance alluded to by the title - as it is the shadowy washes and vocal pads or Molv�r's papery trumpet solo.

The repetition of samples and passages in "...And Poppies from Kandahar" helps to provide some structure to what otherwise sounds like a completely and brilliantly improvised recording: the squeaking of the aforementioned exhaust fan in "The Drug Mule" appears again in "Who Grooms the Child?" in both cases within the first minute and marking a clear divde between each tracks' completely different musical movements; similarly heady and organic ambient drones are common to "The Drug Mule" and "Taking Life;" and more substantially there are the coruscating keys of a mbira in the coda of "Passport Control" that latterly forms the basis of "Ululations."

You simply couldn't want for a more completely realised and immersive piece of music than "Taking Life." Lush drones, emotional and breathy trumpeting from Henrikson, hushed vocals from Anne Marie Almedal that waft through the soundstage as if borne on warm winds, beautiful tribal field recordings and an unforgettable calling voice all work together so naturally it's as if they were made for each other. Taken together they paint a picture so vivid that one is mentally transported there. "Exile from Paradise" is similarly evocative, though tinged this time with a nervous tension and sadness, aided by Jon Hassell on trumpet and Peter Freeman's bass playing and electronics.

Shifting from delicate and acoustic sound collages through to the most sublimely immersive ambient atmospheres in the blink of an eye ...And Poppies from Kandahar continues to surprise right up to its final moments. One of the highlights of the year so far and not to be missed.

...And Poppies from Kandahar is out now on Samadhisound.

view source article here - Igloo Magazine

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