By organically blending elements of electronica and ambient music with bits of chamber music and jazz, the innovative trio of pianist Michele Cavallari, bassist Luca Fogagnolo and drummer Guiliano Ferrari has come up with a wholly unique sound on Elec3Cities that may establish a daring new direction for the piano trio. This delicate balance of electronic experimentalism and acoustic piano jazz has been evolving gradually from the group's initial release in 2006, Adoption, and continued on 2007's Decoupage through 2008's Difficult to See You and 2011's acclaimed Weather Forecasting Stone. But the three Italian musicians take it to a wholly new level on Elec3Cities, their most overtly experimental outing to date and debut for the London-based RareNoise label.
"Experimentation has always been a fundamental part of our work, in the past as well as now," says bassist Fogagnolo. "We'd describe our journey as a ship adrift. If jazz was our starting point we've always felt free to explore different languages. So for us, Elec3Cities does not feel like a conceptual leap since we have been gradually incorporating electronic manipulation of acoustic sounds into our music all along. The unique circumstance of the three of us being in three different cities during the recording of this project created an opportunity for us to more extensively use electronic sounds as a common language."
By creating their fifth album in a 'virtual studio,' the three members of Chat Noir showed that they are right on the cutting edge of recording technology. Indeed, the methods used in putting Elec3Cities together didn't even exist five year ago. As Fogagnalo explains, "The album was entirely developed by exchanging music session through a cloud-based system. So although the album is based on the usual three pillars - piano, bass and drums - the novel recording approach allowed us to have more time to devote to paying attention to small details. We could experiment a lot more in the post-production phase to manipulate the sounds and tracks. We had time to craft our work according to the original concept that we had for it, as well as ample time for it to take on a new form after multiple exchanges of ideas among the three of us."
The resulting sound of this expansive, genre-defying project is at times powerfully cinematic ("Avant Buddha") or delicately balladic ("Chelsea High Line"), dreamily evocative ("Pearls"), minimalist and ambient ("Aspekt") or bombastic and rhythmically charged ("Radio Show"). Surprises abound within each instrumental journey, whether it's the sonic excursion on "Peaceful," which builds from ruminative solo piano to throbbing crescendo, or the dramatic "Our Hearts Have Been Bombed," which travels from zen-like minimalism to provocative dub-noise passages.
Says Fogagnolo "Some of the tunes came from an idea that was well defined from the beginning, like 'Ninth' and 'Chelsea High Line.' Some others tunes grew from smaller fragments through collective work. We'd say that each tune is the result of cooperative energies. Given the multi-layered nature of the recording process that we adopted for this album, most of the ideas and sounds were inspired by a three-way conversion. Adding just even a sound or a single track could in fact generate more ideas and contribute to the final shape of each tune."
The individual members of Chat Noir attribute their collective chemistry to the 10-plus years that they have spent on the bandstand and in the studio together. Their immediate simpatico, which is apparent on all the tracks to Elec3Cities, is also what allowed them to record under such unorthodox circumstances. Even though they were in three different cities for this recording, their musical rapport is still very much present in these eight provocative tracks which are brimming with a universe of sound.
While the core of Chat Noir may have come from a modern jazz piano trio setting, somewhat along the lines of E.S.T. or the Bad Plus, Fogagnolo maintains that there is very little improvisation on their latest recording. "It always took a marginal place in our music," he says. "We always preferred to express our sound in a structured form rather than playing 'solos.' However, for Elec3Cities, each of us often improvised and recorded them as audio tracks for the others to listen to and spark different possible solutions for a theme or a sound as you hear it."
Following in the footsteps of such pioneering North European electronic jazz artists as Nils Petter, Molvaer, Eivind Aarset, Jan Bang, Eric Honore, Arve Henriksen and bands like Supersilient and Jaga Jazzst, Chat Noir are poised to take their place on that new music scene with the release of Elec3Cities, their most adventurous and potent project to date.
Chelsea High Line
Our Hearts Have Been Bombed