Ill Considered: Liminal Space

English improvising band blows up a maelstrom of free jazz, klezmer, hard bop, punk and other music, with interludes of surprising beauty

2000

This London improv outfit is both ferocious and prolific, releasing about a dozen albums since 2017. They include several live recordings – and a rather menacing Christmas album – seeped in influences from free jazz to klezmer, hard bop to punk, North Africa to South Asia.

Billed as their first “fully produced studio album”, Liminal Space doesn’t sound radically different. Like most of its predecessors, it’s a magnificent maelstrom with interludes of surprising beauty. This time, the band features a new core trio augmented by nine guests.

The album starts and ends with brooding echoes of Bowie’s final Blackstar. In trademark Ill Considered style, lead track First Light starts on a smouldering meditative note that slowly grows into a conflagration before dying down again.

The centrepiece is the elegant 10-minute Pearls, led by the entwining saxes of bandleader Idris Rahman and guest Kaidi Akinnibi. Flautist Tamar Osborn adds a tinge of Bolero, underpinned by subtle work on tabla by Sarathy Korwar, Liran Donin on bass and Emre Ramazanoglu on drums. This track too starts slow and builds to a crescendo, but a more restrained, finely shaded one than most of the full-blast explosions here. Elsewhere, repeated blasts of angry noise eventually sound facile and a bit tiresome.

Dervish is one of punkiest tracks, with Rahman on brash sax and an organ that mimics a wah-wah guitar before reaching a resolution of sorts. Light features in-your-face screaming sax, while Knuckles, as the name suggests, is pugilistic and aggressive. At best these tracks are cathartic and ecstatic, but a little of that extreme intensity goes a long way and ought to be used sparingly.

Rahman’s sax is almost always the focus, ranging from a conversational, narrative style to almost strident insistence, with familiar nods to Coltrane, Rollins and Sanders. Ramazanoglu’s nimble work on drums and percussion is a consistent pleasure: funky, propulsive and infectious.

Discography
First Light; Sandstorm; Loosed; Dust; Dervish; Pearls; Light Trailed; Knuckles; The Lurch; Prayer (61.13)
Idris Rahman (s, f, cl, bcl, org); Tamar Osborn (f); Robin Hopcraft (t); Theon Cross (tu); Ahnanse, Kaidi Akinnibi (s); Ralph Wylde (vib); Leon Brichard, Liran Donin (b); Emre Ramazanoglu (d, davul, pc); Sarathy Korwar (tab); Ollie Savill (pc). London, 2021.
New Soil