Astrakan | Astrakan

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Jazz: Jazz-Rock Rock: Experimental Rock Moods: Type: Improvisational
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by Astrakan

Dynamic, intriguingly angular material with plenty of exciting soloing and interplay; very much in the post-Miles vein, this is music at once improvisational but with a strong sense of form and structure.
Genre: Jazz: Jazz-Rock
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. In & Out
4:39 album only
2. Roundelay
3:51 album only
3. Cyan
5:02 album only
4. Sienna
5:54 album only
5. Andromeda
7:10 album only
5:52 album only
7. Mostar
7:36 album only


Album Notes
Recorded at The Cowshed, North London in the summer of 2008, this is the first recording by the band Astrakan. Formed by Michael Garcia in 2004 as The Astrakan Collective, the band has evolved from a loose amalgam of between 6 and 18 players to the present 5-piece line-up of Raymond Hardy (reeds and woodwind), Jerry Wigens (guitar), Michael Garcia (keyboards), Oli Mayne (bass) and Dave Fowler (drums). Garcia has been the main composer from the outset although Hardy and Wigens each contribute tracks here. The music itself covers quite a broad field. Complex, tightly structured material sits alongside total improvisation and blistering, charged solos. This is a collective investigation of the possibilities of combining spontaneity and improvised material with interesting and unusual forms and structures. Friends and followers of the band have likened their sound variously to Soft Machine, Zappa, Gong , Dave Douglas as well as to the newer jazz outfits such as Fraud, Led Bib and Get the Blessing. This is understandable given the band’s varied individual experience in the fields of rock, jazz and contemporary music. Not only are they all consummate improvisers capable of enhancing a variety of settings, they also all contribute material to the band’s ever growing repertory of pieces. Arrangements tend to emerge from a collective process of discussion and experimentation and, invariably, material presented and rehearsed will end up bearing each member’s mark in some way. The band were very pleased with the results obtained by engineer Joe Leach at Cowshed and the material here is the mixed and mastered results of live takes with a bare minimum of overdubbing. It therefore gives an excellent impression of the band’s exciting live sound. Enjoy!



to write a review

Susanna Ferrar

This cd is a gentle but lively collection of diverse tracks. I think my favourite is probably "Roundelay" at present, but this could well change. The lead instruments, Raymond Hardy's haunting reeds and woodwind, Michael Garcia's firm keyboard and Jerry Wigens's accomplished guitar playing, with Oli Mayne's flowing, soft bass lines walk around Dave Fowler's steadily inventive drumming. The syncopation in the opening track has the potential to scramble the brain completely, but just breaks in time (as it were) with a lyrical guitar line scribbling all over the hard edges. Muffled bass and driving percussion bring the piece to an expansive change, the band chasing and falling around each other, burbling, but still not losing their heads.... crunching downwards at times - stringing us out - where to? where to? Ah, easy now, this isn't a headlong flight over the precipice... assertive low notes calm it all down to a gentle recapitulation of a reminder of the original rhythms, then the real thing's back - and welcome! Roundelay reminds me for some reason of honky-tonk and music hall - maybe even of Agincourt - it's a bit medieval in tone. I'm not even sure what the wind instrument is that brings us the pervasive melody - more tight and woody than the usual saxophone sound.... Lovely! Next up, Cyan... not sure why it's called that - has unfortunate connotations for me! Maybe it is about having to go to Rymans because the printer's out of ink, but in a much more pleasant and meandery fashion than usual. Here we are, walking along HIgh Holborn, wondering about sushi, considering the outdoor gear in Black's, or croissant from Sainsbury's... the playing is, above all, engaged - not a blur, not a moment lost, though the daydream continues.. I really like the unison passage here. Sienna starts with a similar unison block, gentle bass line padding along... and gradually the ways part - no shortage of interest here - "talk amongst yourselves chaps" - ah! but what have we here? soft, soft - maybe this Sienna is Romeo and Juliet's Sienna, burnt Umbria... back to the opening and out again in convoluted coils... Andromeda takes us first out to sea then shows us how to proceed sedately. We could be on the front at Cromer or Bournemouth on a balmy summer's evening, the band on the pier... Sorry folks, once I realised I won't going to be marked on this, I allowed my imagination free rein..... Wawg starts more firmly, with more of Astrakan's trademark unison licks, rolling sweetly along... but then we're into really diverse and divergent themes. I like this way of playing layered bands of sound, not necessarily obviously related to each other and then converging again on such a variously-textured unison that it hardly sounds like a unison at all. The last track, Mostar, starts with a drum roll, moving into a tightly constructed rhythmic theme, then away, away, away.... meandering, ethereal duet between the guitar and the drums, drawing to an undramatic, satisfying close.