CD & Digital, Oceanik Productions, 2009
The upshot of former songwriter Jerome Paressant’s twofold interest in electronic music and contemporary jazz, Abraxas Projekt presents an uncomplicated fusion of both elements with its latest release, “Baraka – Visions”. Like its namesake, the 1992 film by Ron Fricke, the album is a study in juxtapositions and motion. Dominated by reed instruments (namely various saxophones and perhaps clarinet), the sixteen-track album also enjoys live percussion and abstract electronic elements derived from an ambient/experimental vein. Despite that fusions of jazz and electronic music are nothing new, it is the improvisational element of live instrumentation, supported by several additional musicians, that coaxes this release in interesting directions.
If the electronics alone are considered, this album would fall in with most ambient and minimal projects, however, “Baraka-Visions” is surprisingly colorful and animated due to its versatile woodwinds. Its base is subtle and laidback, even melodic, yet at the same moment its layering sustains unexpected torrents of sound, unrestrained bursts spewing geysers of chaotic notes. This spirit of uninhibited jazz is introduced from the start, with opening “Ocean Ship” providing a robust, downtempo beat over which the saxophone plays. “Origan” moves faster, with more staccato sax, snares and cymbals offering a percolating atmosphere, and “Demosaurus Junction” continues this mode with a disorderly background guitar mirroring the ordered confusion of the saxophone and drums.
On the other hand, tracks like “Zenn” present a more textured and spacey vibe, replete with a deep (baritone?) sax to finish the mood, and “Mr Oldman Blues” becomes even further introverted with its soft guitar strumming and quiet, breathy saxophone. Likewise, standout track “Semaphores Dub” succeeds in its use of subdued sax accents and swirling synths accompanied by a nice bottom end, the only drawback being a need for more pronounced bass to fill things out. “Shadow Connection” and “L’appel” demonstrate that long-winded notes can also flourish between the cracks of improv mayhem, the former notable for its otherwise clicking minimalism and the latter for its cascading curtains of percussion and rapid-fire woodwind surges interspersed through the calm. Pieces such as “Amor Fati” and “Asak Dream” even include impressions from the Middle East in their melodic structure.
The main disadvantage of “Baraka – Visions” is its overall lack of differentiation between the various compositions. More attention could have been paid to the electronic half of this confrontation, perhaps to develop more engaging beat structures or to evolve the ambient/experimental under-layers into stronger entities of contrast and abstraction. As it stands, the electronic aspect of “Baraka-Visions” simply succumbs under the unruly trampling of jazz improvisation, its effect therefore more suited to the jazz enthusiast, rather than the electronic.
— Dutton Hauhart