March 8, 2023
Vands Transparens - Sidechains
Label: Barefoot Records
Catalog #: BFREC0??LP
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Release Date: February 19, 2023
Media: 12" vinyl or digital download
Sidechains is a quintet of saxophonists active in Copenhagen, including Maria Dybbroe, Sven Meinild, Martin Stender, Francesco Bigoni & Henrik Pultz Melbye. The music that they have chosen to make together is mellow and ambient but actively shifting in its texture. There is an engaging simplicity to it that belies a layered complexity.
When the staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House tries to think of other all-saxophone groups, the only one that spring immediately to mind is the World Saxophone Quartet, founded in 1976 by the all-star line-up of Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, David Murray and Hamiet Bluiett. On the surface, the repertoire of WSQ and Sidechains have nothing in common. WSQ was a jazz band intent on entertaining and Sidechains has an avant garde sound, which is both thought provoking and enjoyable. Still, the sort of musical considerations that members of both ensembles went through to come up with songs that blended saxophones from soprano to baritone with interesting sonic results must have some overlap. The essential kernel of human creativity arises in different times and disparate places and again imagines the possibilities of many saxophones in concert. If nothing else, it makes us want to hear Sidechains play a rendition of Amazing Grace à la WSQ!
Frivolous daydreaming aside, we suppose there is a unique history to Sidechains of which we are only peripherally aware. Listening to the album prompted us to recall Organism and Spirit of the Hive (see links to related reviews below), both of which have six woodwinds and have some portion of their membership overlapping with Sidechains. However, Organism and Spirit of the Hive, by their titles and the style of music, are intended to evoke the sounds of living creatures. On Vands Transparens, the musicians of Sidechains have a different goal, or so it appears to our ears. There is an orchestral coordination to the music that brings to mind inorganic processes of the natural world. Vands Transparens translates in English as "water transparency". This is a music of tides and sunsets or an array of linen hanging from a clothesline and sequentially billowing in response to a passing, afternoon breeze. If still-life portraits of gardens gave voice to a music of their own it might sound like this.
As always we put words to music with uncertain results. Our reassembly of the history based on the information presented to our ears is speculative and likely wrongly constructed. We get a hint of this from the notes on the bandcamp page, which trace the music elsewhere, to a project called Rituals, a collaboration between Jacob Ridderberg and Maria Dybbroe, of which we were previously unaware. As always this sort of signpost for an unexpected musical detour is welcome. We will have to investigate.
We can't resist noting here at the end of the review that, while some may regard our reference to WSQ as ill-considered if not downright idiotic, we do suspect that fans of the World Saxophone Quartet would love this album for the different ends to which the musicians in Sidechains put the harmony of saxophones.
As an aside, we post this review on March 8, 2023, International Women's Day. To celebrate the occasion, Maria Dybbroe has organized the inaugural release of a compilation of nine constellations from the Nordic experimental music scene, titled MEUF vol.1. Interested folks should check it out for more tracks from Ms. Dybbroe and other like-minded musical adventurers.