Downbeat review by Shaun Brady


CF 125Townhouse Orchestra – Belle Ville (CF 125)
4 stars
Unlike most DVDs on the market, director David Lynch insists that his films be released sans chapter stops, thereby preventing viewers from randomly accessing scenes. On the one hand, this makes artistic sense: Lynch is a filmmaker who thrives on atmosphere, which would be destroyed without being experienced in its totality. But he’s also a master at creating memorable and beautiful scenes that last for mere moments, things of mystery worthy of being explored out of context.

The monumental block of music represented on the Townhouse Orchestra’s second release is similar. Each of the two CDs contains a single 45-minute block of music, which rewards being experienced as a whole; there’s an epic spontaneous narrative being spun by these four remarkably attuned musicians, with breathtaking contrasts between
disparate segments. But some of those segments are so striking on their own terms that some sort of index would help one to return and examine them in greater detail.

The quartet – saxophonist Evan Parker, pianist Sten Sandell, bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love – are all quite familiar with one another, evidenced by the utter absence of down time or meandering transitions over the course of the double-disc set. A dense whorl of four-part sound is the default, but many of the highlights come from smaller sub-units: the dark clouds conjured around disc one’s 14-minute mark by Sandell’s portentous left-hand hammering and Parker’s eerily swooping tenor, complemented by Nilssen-Love’s bowed cymbals, or two broad-shouldered solo spots by
Haker Flaten on disc two.

The scale of these improvisations can be a tad overwhelming, akin to staring at two huge abstract murals aswarm with detail. More accurately a diptych, two pieces similar in size and effect, at times echoing and at others deviating from one another, rich on their own,
stunning in combination.

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