KAJA DRAKSLER OCTET – Gledalec

Clean Feed

This double CD is destined to generate some serious chin scratching to critics who need to guillotine unbridled creativity via officially sanctioned nomenclature. In a singular coincidence, over these last few years your reviewer has been committed to the investigation of the decadence (and ultimate nonsensicalness) of what was once called “avantgarde”, by now a definition as risible as a bank manager showing off a presumed extremism amidst clueless colleagues after casually listening to a couple of “innovative” albums recommended by the authorities. Well, this record is deeply reminiscent of the erstwhile avantgarde, the place where antithetical artistic issues and varied types of communicative research used to become allied in the name of genuine advancement.

I was aware of Kaja Draksler’s talent having heard her efforts alone and in a duet with trumpeter Susana Santos Silva. This notwithstanding, nothing prepared me to the contents of Gledalec, an album that needs time, patience and focus to reveal its temperament. An intelligent choice – furnishing a semi-definite compositional structure for the instrumentalists to color blank spaces with their own personality – causes the atmosphere to change from a piece to another. The level of interest is kept high throughout, if only one’s able to seize the performance’s spirit. It’s a finely tuned group of musicians: a band “thinking outside” but absolutely not maladjusted in regard to reality, if you get my point. Merged in the recipe are poetry/spoken word, minimalist sketching, venturesome counterpoint, recollections of past traditions, hints to contemporary chamber scores improved by peculiar twists and turns. A trademark jazz feel – though not entirely absent – appears rarely; in this particular context, we must consider this as a positive. Forced to use a single expression to set forth what was often felt during my private sessions, that would be “a neoliberal rupturing of quietness”.

If, at the beginning, all of the above risks to uproot listeners unwilling to open the mind a tad more, subsequent spins introduce the perception of a specific audible theatre. Each component – both human and acoustic – is there with a precise function. Even scarcely noticeable details which may be deemed as inconsiderable at first are instead fundamental in the overall quality of the opus; ultimately, this exactitude pays dividends. We did think about eventual comparisons, but could not find any valid ones; perhaps, sections from tracks featuring vocalists Björk Níelsdóttir and Laura Polence might convey suggestions of Mike and Kate Westbrook’s most lyrical episodes. Still, let’s not fossilize ourselves into this futile exercise, for this is a clear instance of “listen without prejudice”, the latter act rewarded by music that grows little by little to affirm unarguable values along the processes of its development.

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