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Tuesday, 11 August 2015
PURE PHASE ENSEMBLE 4 (feat. Mark Gardener) – LIVE AT SPACEFEST! (Nasiono Records CD, D/L)
The PurePhase Ensemble is certainly quite a unique musical concept. It’s an international music collective, created especially for the annual SpaceFest festival in Gdansk in Poland, which plays live only the once before disbanding. Each year, in the first week of December, several musicians from Poland and elsewhere take part in several workshop sessions where they collectively compose a concert's worth of music which they then present live to the festival-goers. This one-off performance is recorded and subsequently released on Nasiono Records. The programme for each workshop is jointly curated by Ray Dickaty, a British saxophonist improviser and former member of Spiritualized (1997-2002), and Polish musician/Nasiono Records label boss Karol Schwarz. Along with these two key figures, every festival involves a new musical director who is asked to co-curate the workshop. For the 2014 SpaceFest Ride guitarist/singer Mark Gardener was invited to be the musical director for the fourth incarnation of the Pure Phase Ensemble and bring his significant talent as a musician and songwriter to the project.
If you have not heard any of Mark Gardener’s music since the messy implosion of Ride back in the mid 90s this record will be a bit of an eye opener…..this line-up of Pure Phase Ensemble mix up Kosmische jams, Space Rock freak outs and swirling Shoegaze a million miles away ‘Vapour Trail’. However, this is not just Mark Gardener and some Polish guys acting as his backing band but a proper collective effort with the entire band bringing something to the party, all playing off each other and sharing the musical limelight. With the involvement of Ray Dickaty in this project there is inevitably a feel of early Spiritualized here (calling the project Pure Phase Ensemble is also a bit of a giveaway)……..the crystalline ‘Morning Rise’ emerges from a hazy drone to open the record, with chiming guitars and lazy sax intertwining it is a beautiful tune that would not sound out of place on an album like Lazer Guided Melodies. ‘Peter Song’ is in the same vain with a bouncing, dubby bass line driving the song forward amidst a sea of swirling synths and sax. This version of Pure Phase Ensemble can also rock out like a mutha and kick up a wall of noise….. ‘Zostan na noc’ is a heavy, heavy monster of a loud/quite/loud Space Rock jam with skull crushing bass, squalling sax, big rock drums and pulverizing, distorted guitar riffs crashing into more delicate passages. The centrepiece of the whole album is ‘Notatki’, an epic 15 minute Kosmische wig out which really messes with your head …….building from a clicking rhythm track and pulsing synths ‘Notatki’ initially shares a lot of musical DNA with the Harmonia track ‘Veteranissimo’. As it gains pace the drums really kick in hard building and building, pushing the tune well into the outer reaches of deep space……… when you think the track has peaked it goes again……..more far out, finding more gears and pushing harder, growing into a big, beautiful cosmic freak out. This is an absolutely fantastic track that is worth the price of admission alone. The 55 minute set closes with ‘Happy Dancing Woman’, a joyous, polyrhythmic groove driven number that is the perfect conclusion to a brilliant set of what are mainly improvised songs. The only disappointing thing about this record is that this was a one off performance never to be repeated again. This performance was recorded before the no doubt very lucrative Ride reunion shows and it will be interesting to see what direction Mark Gardener takes when that adventure reaches its conclusion……we can only hope that he is able to put a band together and make music that is exciting and forward thinking as the songs on this album.
You can get your hands on the CD of Live At SpaceFest! from the Nasiono Records website at www.nasiono.net and the digital download is available from either the Pure Phase Ensemble Bandcamp page at https://purephaseensemble.bandcamp.com/ (where there is also a link that will take you to the Nasiono Records website) or iTunes. It’s a fantastic record and a must hear for fans of bands like Spirtualized…….check it out, you won’t be disappointed.