Mikrokolektyw Fancy Themselves Spacey
Polish jazzbos Mikrokolektyw have performed with experimental-electronics artists like Matmos, Fennesz, and even, deviating slightly toward a less stationary crowd, Zu. Thus the duo’s music would like very much to lean toward the experimental, and at times it almost does. Their latest, Revisit, is a caterwaul of Artur Majewski’s expressive trumpet work and Moog chirps, drummed all along by Mikrokolektyw’s rhythmic half, careful player Kuba Suchar. It’s not an uncommon setup in these post-fusion days; it would befit any such article to reference the less-traditional Amon Tobin, who himself comes from Mikrokolektyw’s touring scene.
Were this duo simply Majewski and Suchar sans Moog, well then I’d think a little less of them. The tense opener, “Revisit”, juggles teasing a trumpet sequence straight out of Vertigo with marketplace polyrhthyms and subtle Moog resonance. Their single-horn, stripped-down aesthetic is pleasing, and moody songs like “Tiring Holiday” and “Attention!” would fit well on a mixtape with cuts from Miles’s Ascenseur pour l’échafaud or something by Gil Evans. But Mikrokolektyw’s other, more Moog-affected compositions, like “Rocket Street”, deviate greatly, seeming more in line with Tobin’s detractor. “Lipuko”, with its pop-like elevator hook, soars above glass-cymbal clatter, ending appropriately with an organ-esque loop, and leading into the less-structured “Casio”.
It’s when we reach the album’s end that the mixture sours. “Tar Man” has too much timbre to reach the noir to which it aspires. “Watermelon from the 80s” drifts lazily over a washed-out elastic synth-part, ending with a Latin sequence that, like their “Almost a Good Mood”, just seems too exotic for the album’s otherwise nighttime feel. The time these tracks occupy could have been used to imply greater sense of improvisation, which seems contrary to what Mikrokolektyw let us feel: “Gift” gets all Matmos, miming some aleatoric Moog inflections, but finishing without the heady, wailing satisfaction we’ve so far come to expect.
Revisit is strong in its atmosphere. Majewski and Suchar compose well and sparsely when they do, achieving the downtown sound for which they’ve written. My advice is that they deviate further, push more toward a sound that gives them, as their album notes state, “melodies like cartographers from some distant future.” Reading that makes one hope for Brian Eno, a trumpet, and an empty planetarium. In fact, after reading about Mikrokolektyw’s association to experimental electronic, I had hoped for SETI project samples. Space music is big. Only Sun Ra and post-rockers have fused it well with jazz. Revisit is a strong album but, again as it’s notes tell us, it is not “an outline of unexplored electronic hieroglyphs,” not by a mile. Think about it, Mikrokolektyw, and kick on your Space-Echo.