Ben Monder – Amorphae


The Brooklyn-based guitarist has appeared as a sideman on about 180 albums but this is only his sixth as leader and his first for ECM. Originally intended as a duo disc with drummer Paul Motian, that idea had to be adapted after Motian’s death.

So what we have is a neat programme of eight tracks, the bookends solo Monder affairs, the centrepieces two trios with another master drummer Andrew Cyrille and Pete Rende on synthesizer, and between them four duets, two with Motian and two with Cyrille.

Monder’s classic set-up of Ibanez AS-50 with a vintage Lexicon LXP-1 reverb unit, the delay set on maximum, gives an immense sound which seems to stretch from just behind my hi-fi speaker baffles and away to a horizon an infinity distant. It turns the only “tune” on the album, Oh, What A Beautiful Morning, from the jaunty musical number Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote into a sunrise of interplanetary proportions, especially as Motian sounds in equally dramatic frame of mind.

The rest of the tracks are strongly improvised in the moment, though with musicians of this calibre and this intuition to each other’s needs the results can sound beautifully integrated and composed. They are sometimes as strange as their titles – Zythum, Gamma Crucis, Tumid Cenobite, Hematophagy – but rarely less than compelling.

An album of music simultaneously expansive and intimate from a guitarist with a truly great sound.

Categories: CD review

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