Fosterchild: Dear Earthling

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This Danish-German quintet can trace its roots back to a visit to Cologne made by pianist Jacob Anderskov at the invitation of Helm and Arends in 2015. The three immediately clicked, no mean feat for musicians working at the margins of instant composition (Echtzeitmusic, as they describe it), and Tranberg and Gille were later added for live dates across Germany and Denmark.

Dear Earthling distils three days spent in a Cologne studio in November 2018 into 40 highly concentrated minutes, and the impact is nothing less than remarkable. Leaving aside the quintet’s very classic instrumentation, this is the kind of music that couldn’t really exist without the example of Miles’s great quintet with Shorter and Hancock. Each performer moves in loosely connected and multi-directional orbits, always with one ear trained towards “home”. There’s a strong kinship to introvert and classically leaning European traditions too, and it’s no coincidence that Fosterchild share a common lineage with Pablo Held’s trio, with whom saxophonist Gille has recorded.

Each selection sits within a very calculated programmatic sequence, and while it’s clear that some smart editorial decisions have been made there is little sense of an obvious linear narrative. Turquoise instantly plunges the listener into the maelstrom, its delicate theme floating serenely over some decidedly choppy rhythmic waters. The first solo is from Helm, but Anderskov, Gille and Tranberg all make terse but telling statements. At just over two and half minutes the potently succinct Donkey Sequel offers just enough time for Gille’s disciplined tenor to navigate the freer topography of Helm and Arends, while Opal turns the spotlight on Anderskov, who turns in a wonderfully lyrical passage. 

Tranberg is a real star in the making, his clarion lines cutting through the rough throbbing churn of Charade with laser-like precision. Two Is Company elicits his most overt references to the language of Davis, Is This The End? is almost a blues, while the abstract forms of Traumfänger (“Dreamcatcher”) sit more within in the sphere of contemporary classical music. The closing No. 12 is a pared-back ballad for the majestic Tranberg, and as Anderskov’s final unresolved phrase hangs, silence takes hold the ears demand more. Surely there must be enough leftover material for a second volume?

Discography
Turquoise; Donkey Sequel; Opal; Charade; Agate; Two Is Company; Gone / Gold; Is This The End?; Traumfänger; No. 12 (42.36)
Kaspar Tranberg (t); Sebastian Gille (ts, ss); Jacob Anderskov (p); David Helm (b); Fabian Arends (d). 24-26 November 2018, Cologne.
ILK Music 295