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Mercurial Balm

Food
ECM
Thomas Strønen (drums) and Iain Ballamy (saxophones) are the primary chefs whose offerings may bring to mind the brownies made famous by Alice B. Toklas. They, with supporting musicians, double on electronics, creating music that is spare, haunting at times, and evocative of oceans and outer space. Aural references include ambient music such as that by Steve Roach, Robert Rich and early Tangerine Dream. Prakash Sontakke (slide guitar and vocals) brings rich Hindustani textures to the mix. Strønen often uses mallets to set up rippling percussive undercurrents. Washes of synths and sax lead into the opening “Nebular,” which transitions to “Celestial Food” with the addition of drums. Ballamy’s sax soars lyrically through “Ascendant,” and Nils Petter Molvær’s trumpet adds color to “Moonpie.” The artists have jazz backgrounds, but it is their risk-taking improvisation, rather than their swing, that marks this.