A collective assembled in 2003 by Australian harpist Clare Cooper, Hammeriver was originally born as a means to pay respect to Alice Coltrane while deepening the investigation of her music’s structures and spiritual meanings. For this recording, issued by Mikroton in 2010 but dating from a few years prior, Cooper surrounded herself with pianist Chris Abrahams, lloopp manipulator Christof Kurzmann, reedist Tobias Delius, double bassists Werner Dafeldecker and Clayton Thomas, and drummer Tony Buck. The ensemble’s founder stresses that “there are too many impulsive releases out there”, referring to her will of letting the music mature – even for long times – before the hypothetical publishing. She’s pretty much right – at least in principle – but it must be told that the kind of material we’re offered would have brought the same results if released the day after the session.
In essence, we perceive competent interaction around fixed elements; it might be a single note used as a pedal like in “E”, whose gradually growing layers make me think of a Branca/Tippett interbreeding rather than “laminal” (yet another journalistic compartmentalization that I have started to detest). The initial “Second Stabbing (Ohnedaruth)” is indeed a rendition of an Alice Coltrane tune, sounding as the preface to a ritual that never happens. In the droning sections, the low-register constituents make sure to impose their ascendancy: two double basses and a piano mostly played in the left half of the keyboard do mean something in terms of pulsing potential. The remaining episodes appear a little more connected with the “orthodox” aspects of a semi-libertarian instrumental performance: mindful percussiveness, cautiously plucked strings, well discernible jazz-derived tones (from Delius’ sax and clarinet, of course) and computerized complements superimposed in dignified fashion. In any case there’s always a sense of preconceived construction underlying the interplay, which mainly stays anchored in the harbour of a somewhat perturbed stillness. Several chunks are gripping, especially when Buck’s drumming starts affirming its force and the crescendos verge on the monolithic (again, “E” is the best example). However there’s no breaking new grounds in this concoction of vigorous mantras and not overly painstaking timbral research.
In a nutshell, quite effective but not indispensable.