Lorenzo Feliciati – Koi [TrackList follows] – RareNoise RNR050, 42:33 [5/26/15] ***1/2:
(Lorenzo Feliciati – fretless and fretted electric bass, electric guitar, keyboards, sound design; Alessandro Gwis – acoustic piano, laptop; Steve Jansen – drums, percussion, rhythm design, programming; Pat Mastelotto – drums (track 6); Angelo Olivieri – trumpet; Nicola Alesini – soprano saxophone (track 6); Stan Adams – trombone, horns arranger and conductor; Pierluigi Bastioli – bass trombone; Duilio Ingrosso – baritone saxophone)
For his sixth album on the RareNoise label, Italian bassist Lorenzo Feliciati goes underwater. His latest effort, the 42-minute Koi, is a conceptual project based on the life of the well-known river carp fish. While traditional Chinese folklore tales were the inception for the 12 tracks, Feliciati’s material has a modern jazz quality which uses acoustic instruments (piano, percussion, drums, horns) put side by side with electronic elements (electric bass, electric guitar, a laptop and programming). The result brims with contemporary soundscapes which comprise traces of prog rock, funk, electronic dance music and more, within an up-to-date jazz tone. Koi was issued as CD, as multiple digital formats, and single 180-gram vinyl—and as a CD + vinyl combo pack. This review refers to the compact disc package.
The core group has Feliciati on fretless and fretted electric bass, electric guitar, keyboards and sound design; Alessandro Gwis on acoustic piano and laptop; and drummer Steve Jansen (co-founder of English post-punk band Japan; and a long-time session player). Current King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto (who is also a session musician) is heard on one cut; and a horn section is utilized on select pieces. Feliciati is a self-taught bassist, whose early influences included Weather Report. He was later inspired by former Japan bassist Mick Karn; fusion bassist Percy Jones (Brand X, Tunnels); and the music of King Crimson. It’s understandable, then, why Feliciati features a band which has some current or former members of his favorite groups.
While Feliciati’s compositions—most named after types of koi—are distinct and individualistic, tracks flow from one to another without pauses, which provides an overall ambient sensibility. Feliciati accomplishes this by having five short interludes between seven longer tunes. Feliciati’s musical excursion begins with the spacious but brief, echo-etched “Kohaku,” which streams into the funk-flecked “New House,” which teems with motile momentum led by repetitive riffs and driving horns, especially Angelo Olivieri’s muted trumpet and Duilio Ingrosso’s soulful, baritone saxophone. The second interlude is the glacial and soothing “Kumonryu,” which drifts into “Oxbow,” a moody, slow-groove piece accentuated by digital and acoustic percussion, more muted trumpet, piano, and an undertow of electronic phasing. It’s similar to music Jansen helped create on the 1991 LP, Rain Tree Crow, with Japan singer David Sylvian. Two of Feliciati’s avowed influences are combined during the pulsing “Noir Alley Verdigris,” which supposedly falls somewhere between King Crimson and Weather Report. It’s unclear how that melding occurs, but the reverbed resounding sax does nod to Wayne Shorter; and “Noir Alley Verdigris” also includes Mastelotto, although his ticking rhythm does not implicitly invoke King Crimson. The Weather Report stimulation is more forthright on the expressive, atmospheric “Margata,” where Feliciati’s fretless playing mirrors his hero, Jaco Pastorius. “Margata” is reminiscent of the urbanized art-rock produced by Sylvian, during in his post-Japan solo career. Feliciati concludes with the throbbing “Fish Bowl” and the cinematic title track. Unbelievable to imagine the fuzz-bass drenched “Fish Bowl” started as a Frank Zappa-esque work. It was transformed in the studio into something quite unrelated. The heady beat, washed electronics, low-end horns, and funk-infused percussion supply a dance-enriched backdrop. The title track commences with pinging piano, minimalist electronics, and plenty of reverb and echo. Gradually an ominous undercurrent develops, akin to a neo-noir score by Mark Isham (think 2004’s Crash) or a likeminded composer. Koi may come as a pleasant surprise to those who assume the RareNoise label is solely concerned with raucous releases. Feliciati’s music is more subtle than the imprints’ other artists, and Feliciati’s jazz-rock timbre doesn’t bang, blister or pummel. Anyone interested in Koi can view a brief, online, teaser promotional video online.
TrackList: Kohaku; New House; Kumonryu; Oxbow; Black Kumonryu; Noir Alley Verdigris; Ogon; Narada; Margata; Kuchibeni; Fish Bowl; Koi.