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Monday, April 01, 2019

CD Review: Dominic Miller - Absinthe

Dominic Miller (Guitar); Santiago Arias (Bandoneon); Mike Lindup; (Keyboard); Nicolas Fiszman (Bass); Manu Katché (Drums). 
(Review by Chris)

This is the second ECM recording by Miller, the versatile and much travelled guitarist originating from Buenos Aires, but now resident in the south of France where this was translucently recorded in the usual ECM style. His French home infuses the music with a light, airy folk feel, but although tempting to think of the bandoneon sounding like a French accordion, the instrument and harmonies here are definitively Argentinian, home of young folk/jazz star Santiago Arias, who takes the majority of melodic lead role. I’d say Miller achieves his sleeve-note aim of an Impressionist musical statement, in the tradition of the painter masters of Provence of old.  Miller has links to the North East musical history, as he has toured and recorded with Sting since 1991, but this album marks a rather different direction to his day job.


The album consists of ten short and varied songs, carefully crafted, with a laid back, ethereal vibe, reaching high energy levels only occasionally.  The title track opens with solo acoustic guitar, but it’s soon obvious that this is an ensemble effort, showcasing sumptuous and delicate playing by the rest of the band.   Manu Katché makes his familiar artful contribution, with the sparkling recording allowing every shimmer, clatter and resonation of his kit to be heard.

Track 6, Etude, stands out with repeated, interlocking contrapuntal phrases between guitar, bass and the rest of the band, riding hypnotically on Katché’s infectious beats.  Tracks 7 and 8 raise the energy levels and tempo: Bicycle hits a more animated groove, with synth replacing piano on top, while Ombu cuts loose, with a free section, and Katché finally unleashing full power.  The album closes with the slower and more abstract Ténèbres, and the final track, St Vincent, sharing another haunting melody around and over a busy, skittering drum part.

Overall, a delightful, accessible and engaging work, with ghostly and oblique melodies to charm the ears, and enough guitar and percussion mastery to satisfy the technical minded.  Could be enjoyably consumed on its own, or letting it wash over you, perhaps relaxing with a bottle of Argentine Malbec.
Chris Kilsby
Release date: 01.03.2019 ECM 2614

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