Review of The Drop

by Michael Engelbrecht

From Jazzthetik, September 1997, kindly translated, typed and supplied by Bommel by kind permission of Michael Engelbrecht.

"Imagine someone of a distant planet asked you to describe modern jazz. Imagine them trying to play it after forgetting most of what you said. Welcome to The Drop!"

Brian Eno is playing with forgetting, and he makes a jazz record, which, of course, isn't one. Since the music is coming out of forgetting. Tradition is an old man with a dead suitcase full of music. Remembering is the the biggest error of the model pupil. In jazz, enough prisoners of good taste are running around in circles flogging memories. If only they could forget, if only the first blown sound would become an adventure again. The first sound out of a saxophone, out of a Steinway grand piano, out of a DX-7, out of a cheap Casio!

Why is this album a masterpiece? Because memory consists of nothing but torn threads. The puppet player accompanies imaginary sound figures through empty spaces. Only rubble interpuctuates the emptiness. Rubble is stranded memories, stripped of their old form, melodic signatures, rhythmic skeletons. Even rhythmic skeletons can dance! And Brian Eno once whistled IN A SILENT WAY. He loved the labyrinthine sound sculptures of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. He even once entitled one of his compositions ZAWINUL. And this sounds through from very far away. Like Chinese whispers in the Internet. The parallels vanish in a pure blue space. Anybody who keeps heaven out of the music, will direct a laboratory experiment. Melodic motives move in delicate zigzag lines. Vague and daring. All of a sudden, what the intellect perceives as an unfinished sound sketch, the sentiment finds perfect. Not one note too few!

It starts with an arabic essence: a note is bent, flexed, all a question of flying skills. Out of static grooves, melodic motives bubble like fountains. Where to go? Into the uncertain! Into the abstraction of memory! Strangely factual, at the same time strangely enthusiastic. Further parallels: Eno likes Fela Kuti and hears again and again the bass lines out of the music of this Nigerian ensemble, which are at the same time melodic and percussive and which loose all of their sense when the surrounding instruments cease. Eno was in contact with Harmonia and Cluster for some time: to let a chord sustain over two bars and modulate the constant soft decay ad infinitum, this variety of giddiness from fairs and carousels. And, of course, theplaying with jazz, only materializing above the beats, in the improvisations and well-dosed samples: a drum roll gets driven to the horizon by an unreal echo, a precious sound of a grand piano gets smuggled into the completely-electronic.

The Drop presents complex emptied music, miles apart from Drum & Bass and Post-Jungle and Pre-Shuckle and Dream-Stip and Illbient and Clone Cool. This music is a stroke of luck, outwitting in the modern ding-a-ling machine sound and easy listening. One could nearly think this CD is falling out of time a little bit. The museum guards of jazz have clapped-out. Now fork-lift truck drivers come into the picture. In their white boxes, heaven is living.

© Michael Engelbrecht 1997