Lee Ranaldo / Jim Jarmusch / Marc Urselli / Balazs Pandi
Two American composers, a Swiss-Italian producer and a Hungarian drummer walk into a studio…This might sound as the beginning of the most bizarre joke ever, but it’s basically the premise at the core of the Grammy awarded studio technician Marc Urselli’s idea. Take one of the finest guitarists alive, a histrionic independent film director with a powerful musical background and today’s hottest drummer, lock them for one whole night in a recording studio in NYC and see what happens.
The unedited jam is then split in three movements, five for those who purchase the CD, and directly turned into an album.
Urselli’s production skills are unmatched, very far away from the crusty punk vibe the classical “no editing /no overdub” releases are usually imbued with. The crystal clear, crisp quality of the sounds (especially in the drum sounds) feels therefore still rather alien to this context and requires a certain effort to sonically and emotionally abandon the dirt which is somehow a signature of the entire genre. But, as we get progressively used to the way the album sounds, satisfaction kicks in, and a warm sound picture develops all around body and ears making us wonder just “why isn’t every album produced with such craft”?
The lineup for this session has Lee Ranaldo and Jim Jarmusch playing guitars with effects, pedals and objects. Ranaldo himself adds some quite suggestive little bells here and there that definitely contribute the overall dreamy atmosphere. Marc Urselli as a bass player and laptop performer holds the ground, while Balazs Pandi (already drumming in Venetian Snares and with Merzbow, Keiji Haino and Mats Gustafsson) kicks in with his relentless berserk sticking. From there on the quartet freely interacts, functionally. Each one of the musicians steadily keeps his role and suggest narrative elements that try to establish a long and slow plot for us to follow.
Despite the very interesting practice of creating a musical “blind date” with great musicians who don’t know each other; despite the skills, the minds, the abilities; despite the undoubted beauty of all the pieces appearing in the album, Marc Urselli’s experiment is soft and doesn’t strike for musical edginess. The whole record flows, rather easily, from start to finish, without any sensational moment. The risk taken by setting up the whole operation is not reflected in the musicians’ attitude, which appears safe and doesn’t leave much space to uncertainty and mistakes. The beauty of the unexpected leaves the ground to a predictable dronish nature in which the four artists politely linger, slowly fading from one consonance to the next.
A mention of honour goes to Balazs Pandi and his hardcore background constantly trying to refuse moderation with super-fast sticking, but his resistance is still easily broken and tamed back into the void.