[5 February 2008]
Thomas Stronen, whose solo work as a percussive, intricately-patterned percussionist achieves an abstract density that is at times impossible to follow, has over the past five releases with Food (a duo with British saxophonist Iain Bellamy) provided something a little more accessible. This music is still completely experimental—ideas jumble out of the texture of the songs unexpectedly, without a discernible pattern—but it’s also often surprisingly tender. “Red Algae”’s repeated, held-out saxophone notes (layered drones of treble polyphony in the background), e.g., are quite hypnotic. “Nature’s Recipe” brings in melancholy Eastern tonalities and a shifting pots-n-pans percussion effect that’s both old and new-sounding. Molecular Gastronomy is largely improvised, giving Bellamy the room to alternately stab and create long, flowing, beautiful lines. What is perhaps more impressive is the fluid way Stronen attacks percussion—not afraid to use conventional drum machines (as on the bounding “Apparatus”), he still brings to the fuzzy beats the feeling that they could stumble to a stop at any minute, depending on the creator’s whim. That element of whimsy—essential to any successful improvisation, and occasionally buried in the esoteric flourishes of some of Stronen’s more austere work—is what makes Molecular Gastronomy a pleasure to listen to, and to return to. The link between experimental food and experimental music here may have to remain in the musicians’ minds. But the album nevertheless proves a worthy entry to Food’s and Rune Grammofon’s catalogue.