Mark Solborg / Stephan Meinberg / Anders Banke / Joachim Ambros

April 14, 2003

republic of…

quilombo records 02.1

Putting out a quartet record with a front line of sax and trumpet should be a pretty straightforward rite of passage for young improvisers. Except that is if the musicians are members of Mold, the Danish/German band with American and Continental experience.

Not wanting to create yet another two-horns/two rhythm group, Mold constituted itself with one brass player, one woodwind player and two guitarists. To be honest, two of the players do add electronics, but such is their burgeoning collective talent that you probably won’t notice the lack of conventional rhythm section.

This isn’t the first time a musical arrangement like this has existed either. Doppelmoppel is an experimental German unit featuring brothers Konrad Bauer and Johannes Bauer on trombones and Uwe Kropinski and Joe Sache on guitars and electronics.

Performing nine medium-length, band member-written originals, Mold isn’t that far out. Instead hear REPUBLIC OF … for what it is: an excellent prologue to what probably be long musical careers.

Interestingly enough, Mold first got together in New York in 2000, where all four members were studying. However this CD wasn’t recorded until two years later in Copenhagen. Guitarist Mark Solborg and reedist Anders Banke live there, and it’s where the fretman has involved himself in theatre music, his own quartet and work as a sideman with saxophonist Lotte Anker. Banke has recorded with New York drummer Jim Black and as part of Pierre Dørge’s New Jungle Orchestra. Brassman Stephan Meinberg, who is based in Cologne, Germany, is in other local bands and played with Yank jazzers like pianist Uri Caine and saxophonist Gary Thomas. Finally, Berlin-based guitarist Joachim Ambros has done his own solo projects and toured with the Klezmorim trio.

Despite its title “ay Ciao!” seems to be an extension of the Balkan/Klezmer style. Rife with Eastern European dance rhythms, the jolly, sprightly tune includes well-blended high-pitched reed and brass work, with one guitarist — Ambros? — plunking out chords that could come from a balalaika. It’s more POMO than tradition, though, with smears from the horn glancing off clashing string beats.

Then there’s “melanga”, which sounds as if the four are concurrently playing an off-key nursery rhyme. This melange soon cleaves apart with one guitarist creating some moaning, country-blues style picking, while the horns explode into brassy introductory notes that could be perfect for a pageant. Contrast between buzzing electronics and guitar pedal effects on the bottom and soaring piccolo trumpet lines on the top is soon refined into unvarying guitar strumming and a drone that resembles a jet plane engine’s roar.

Not every composition gyrates at this frantic pace, however. For instance the nearly eight-minute “mudwater & the Stuttgart blues” starts off with muted, ECM-style trumpet, mellow tenor saxophone lines and the whoosh of wiggling, emphasized electronics. It ends the same way as well, as clear, acoustic guitar finger picking and bass guitar approximations meet up with some trumpet sounds that appear to have escaped from SKETCHES OF SPAIN. Of course it’s only fair to point out that the middle section is all screeching guitar lines spanning the upper pitches, commingled with some legato clarinet tones and what appears to be an entire electronic factory full of mechanical parts that get louder and more frantic until the serene acoustic section arrives.

Elsewhere you may hear the occasional reed and brass mouthpiece squeak and the odd Bronx cheer-like vibrato and guitars’ effects pedals getting a workout. But unless you shudder at the sort of sounds Yank downtowners like altoist Tim Berne or trumpeter Dave Douglas produce, you won’t be frightened by the few aspiring extended techniques that appear here.

Because it’s a young band, not everything Mold tries is memorable. For example the one minute of silence followed by raucous unison horn work at the end of the final track is off-putting. No longer surprising, the noise-silence-noise schtick is starting to wear a bit thin. Plus the jazz-and-poetry interlude on “march” with a sultry-voiced singer mouthing lyrics with the backing of 1950s sax riffs is better forgotten than repeated. More seriously, it would be nice to know which guitarist plays on which track.

Outside of these missteps however, Mold’s debut session is convincing. With these heightened expectations, though, you’ll expect the quartet members to come up with something even better next time out.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. No Time-time 2. mudwater & the Stuttgart blues 3. republic Of … 4. Dagobah 5. tickets Please! 6. melanga 7. march* 8. ay Ciao! 9. I don’t Know The Answer

Personnel: Stephan Meinberg (trumpet, piccolo trumpet, flugelhorn; Anders Banke on soprano and tenor saxophones, clarinets); Joachim Ambros and Mark Solborg (guitars and electronics); Maria Laurette Friis (vocals)*