Bonobo’s Ark 2019
Scaling temperature in multiple ways, British avant-garde trio heats it up to hit the sweet spot.
Despite this album’s title, there’s inner logic to the music Yumi Hara, Tim Hodgkinson and Chris Cutler laid down in 2018-2019 at Rock in Opposition Festival and Cafe OTO – respectively, in Lyon and London – that was edited to make, as the later of the HENRY COW alumni hinted at, “weirdness problems disappear” and take on a sonic form. There’s also the element of suprise in the pieces named after the four famous physicists who offered their approach to thermodynamics, and while THE WATTS deal with a different kind of scales, the small collective venture into the tuneful unknown with the same determination. So even though the results aren’t for the faint of heart, “Decoherence” – deceptively disjointed as it may seem – is where delights lurk behind many a corner.
Angularity can be deemed one of the record’s main features, but structure can’t, and that’s the paradox to define the creepy creaking of “Fahrenheit” which sees Yumi alternately cooing and chanting before switching to a sort of tango on her piano, while Tim scratches and pinches guitar strings and Chris thumps, in a deliberately irregular manner, a wide variety of surfaces. The players use a lot of found, and prepared, objects used to create soundscapes, never more explicitly than in “Celsius” with its multitude ghostly grooves and quasi-operatic poetry, yet the epitome of the ensemble’s method – as in “method to the madness” or their take on control of chaos – is the 32-minute, enchanting “Kelvin”: when this often cacophonous cut begins to chug alongh the track as a well-oiled engine only to shift intensity further down the line and then ramp up the noise again, something cathartic will transpire. Without such cleansing, the percussive textures behind “Rankine” wouldn’t feel so arresting.
Very much in the moment, the album’s abstractness doesn’t fail to impress, and repeated spins render it an ever-growing trip.