Okay, this is probably what is known as a guilt review. This arrived late last year and I listened to it a lot. Yet every time I tried to put words to it, I just couldn’t work out what to say – other that it was great and I really liked it, which doesn’t really cut it.
It’s the work of Alex Roth (electric guitar, field recordings, processing), Wacław Zimpel (clarinets, electronics) and Hubert Zemler (drums). In recent years I’ve been really drawn to the work of Polish composer and woodwind maestro Wacław Zimpel, via his duos with James Holden and Sam Shackleton in particular, as well as numerous other projects, and have consistently admired his tasteful approach to his instrument and willingness to mess things up. He was my entry point to this work.
Esz Kodesz stemmed from US born UK raised guitarist Alex Roth’s (Multiraction Orchestra/ Supersigil) desire to reconnect with his ancestral homeland, which found him in Kraków, where he connected with the aforementioned musicians. Playing field recordings gathered in Poland at historically significant Jewish locations, through effects pedals as part of live improvisations with the trio contributed significantly to the development of their approach.
What I find remarkable about this music is how it simultaneously feels improvised yet contained. Like the trio are just exercising around a mood, yet there are moments when it feels much more than that. It can be poignant, still, brimming with emotion, in the way that much improvised music is incapable of expressing. This is three people heading in the same direction. It seems to be more about what it does to you than what its doing to them – which is rarer than you would expect. Perhaps its because they’ve been playing together for over five years and all the demons have been excised.
I’m reminded of Australian trio the Necks and German solo artist, then band Kammerflimmer Kollektief in their ability to occupy a space, occupy a mood. There are elements of post rock, cinematic scoring, ambient jazz and numerous other intersecting worlds, yet this music feels beyond labels. It’s specifically designed to evoke, and the freedom within which it was constructed is uniquely tangible.
Esz Kodesz demonstrates the difference between a band and one off improvisers. There really is a shared understanding of mood, feel and approach, and that’s what makes this album such a powerful emotive, and at times indescribable experience.