June 14, 2021
eponymous - Maraton
Label: Barefoot Records
Catalog #: BFREC065CD
Release Date: May 13, 2021
Media: cd or digital download
Maraton is a quartet in which four musicians with varying backgrounds have collaborated to explore what music should arise from the spaces between their respective territories. That the combination of different perspectives should lead to an album that is not easily categorizable is, from our point of view, the best possible outcome. (As an idea, non-idiomatic improvised music is defined by negation, by all the genres in which it cannot be placed. Thus the range of what kind of music can be considered non-idiomatic is unbounded. Disparate examples of such music may bear no relationship to each other. This is of course essential, since common, repeated strains in the music would give rise to their own idiom.)
Maraton features Christian Haase on synth, Lasse Sonne on piano and synth, Jonathan Ludvigsen on drums, synth and samples and, finally, Maria Dybbroe on reeds and percussion. All four musicians additionally contribute vocals on the album. Of these musicians, we were previously familiar only with Ms. Dybbroe, from her saxophone in free jazz ensembles, Køs (Forlaget Kornmod, 2020, reviewed by the PPPH April 30, 2020) and Caktus (Barefoot Records, 2020, reviewed by the PPPH October 24, 2020).
We understand that the title of the group, Maraton (the intuitive English translation to Marathon is a correct one), arose from a practice of playing extended performances—nine hours in one stretch or four hour-long shows in a single day. This album is a curated collection of excerpts culled from various performances. It is edited and produced but without over-dubbing. Quixotically, many of the fifteen tracks are not marathons at all but casual, unhurried sprints, some begun and completed in under a minute. In these vignettes we are treated to the esthetic that emerges from the interaction of these musicians. Three of them are on sythesizer so discovering an electronic music is not surprising. The way in which the electronics are manifested across the album is at times ambient and at other times catchy. This is not a music in which an embrace of melody is entirely eschewed. Over a background of electronic sound sculptures and samples, Dybbroe's saxophone (and vocals in the case of Solskin Udenfor or Sunshine Outside) floats with a measured nonchalance.
The American pianist, Vijay Iyer, said in 2007, "When I hear mastery without risk, I feel ripped off."* This philosophy propels creative experimentalists across the world into new sonic landscapes. Often conventional notions of melody and rhythm are left behind as the most obvious signal to demonstrate departure from tradition, leading to music that is original, thought-provoking and at times (even for well-seasoned ears) a listening challenge. On this album, however, Maraton delivers a creative music that is the antithesis of hard listening. There is an intentional "cool sound" in both the electronics and saxophone that is instinctually appealing and easy to absorb. One can imagine this music setting the atmosphere as a soundtrack, an idea which is reinforced by the dvd box packaging and the separate co-release of a poster appropriate to a film.
Certainly Dybbroe is a creative risk taker. This album by Maraton is an entirely different creature than either An Uncaught Bird of Køs orUnder Solen of Caktus. That each of her projects is significantly different from the ones that came before is part of her appeal to the ears of the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House. We look forward to what unexpected music emerges from her direction in the future. In the meantime, we have repeated listenings of Maraton to tide us over.
*Uncertainty Principle, Vijay Iyer, All About Jazz, 2007.