Tuesday, 13 September 2011

4* Review in the GUARDIAN (UK)

John Fordham about The Last:

London's F-ire and Loop Collectives keep turning up fascinating young bands. Ma is an improv/electronics/samples group featuring saxophonist Tom Challenger and drummer Dave Smith (cornerstones of the excellent Outhouse) with organist Ross Stanley, and Matt Calvert on electronics. It's a remarkably atmospheric album, reminiscent of everything from Bill Laswell's production work on classic Miles Davis tracks to AMM, from Tony Williams's Lifetime to Scandinavian ambient, abstract-funk investigations. The uninvitingly titled Dump is typical of the set, with its long, glittering key chords invaded by clattering drum'n'bass patterns and hooted at by distant sax fragments. One of many contrasts comes from the almost-lyrical Pipes, with its reflective, mid-range tenor murmurs and brushwork washed by churchy organ chords. Some pieces are brief explorations of tone and strings-synth textures, or keyboard sonorities against mallet-rumbles; some groove over purring bass parts and trance-steady drumming, into which curl sinewy Tim Berne-like sax melodies. There are breathy tenor reveries over rustling sounds, dinosaur grunts over percussion and rainstorm electronics, and the title track is rich-tenor lament of Jan Garbarek-like drama. This is easily as good as the work of many of Ma's better-known contemporaries.