Curved Air — Curved Space & Infinity
(Curved Air Records CRV RS 002, 2016, 2CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2016-12-25
The latest in the Curved Air Rarities series (Volume 2) is in fact a two disc set of material that is in fact not Curved Air at all, but instead improvisations by subsets of band members, former members, and such, and should be approached as that. Don’t expect any compositions in the way of songs with lyrics here; there are no vocals — the two discs here represent collectives of certain Curved Air members (from two different eras of the band) shooting off some steam through jamming. Sonja is nowhere to be found on either of these. Most of the material on disc one was previously released as Francis Monkman’s Jam, originally released on the Voiceprint label back in 1991. Here, with an extra (and excellent) track “Rose” included, it has been rebranded as Curved Space, though it is what it is: original Curved Air members Francis Monkman (guitar), Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums), Rob Martin (bass), and friend Mike Gore (guitar) jamming for hours, then carefully edited down to eight long tracks, which all pretty much sound the same with some variations in pace and approach, with the final track “Rose” added from a session featuring Monkman and Pilkington-Miksa around 15 years after the original material, to bring the running time of disc one of to a few seconds shy of 80 minutes. Honestly, I am a huge Curved Air fan from way back, but this first disc of the set is just too samey (and not all that well recorded), and well before the half-way point it all becomes pretty tiresome.
Disc two fares a bit better, another full length disc of current / recent Curved Air members Pilkington-Miksa, keyboardist Robert Norton, and Kirby Gregory on guitar; the original session from 2011 featured Norton playing all the bass, electric piano and synth parts simultaneously along with the drums; several years later in 2014, Kirby heard the recording and offered to overlay guitar parts on the existing improvisations, and the six tracks that comprise disc two, here titled Infinity, were born. This is essentially another assemblage of jams that clock in at nearly 80 minutes, but fares much better due to a variety of sounds presented and a vastly superior recording. All taken, the material on this set is more an effort to capitalize on the Curved Air name by rebranding some peripheral material that may only be of limited interest to most.
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more
Joel Vandroogenbroeck RIP – Word has reached us of the death of Joel Vandroogenbroeck, best known as one of the founders of Brainticket, He also recorded electronic music under a variety of names. He was born August 25th, 1938 in Brussels, Belgium and died December 23, 2019 in Arlesheim, Switzerland, aged 81. » Read more