The duo of saxophonist lain Bellamy and percussionist Thomas Stronen create more haunting, improvised experiments around the theme of food.
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.