Food: Last Supper
Rune Grammofon

Last Supper is an appetizing fourth outing from Food, an entrancing quartet formed in 1998 and featuring English sax player Iain Ballamy alongside Norwegians Mats Eilertsen on bass, drummer Thomas Strønen, and the remarkably gifted trumpeter (and Supersilent member) Arve Henriksen, whose own Chiaroscuro was deservedly celebrated upon its 2004 release. Food plays like a band in the truest sense rather than a two-tiered coupling of rhythm section and front-line soloists, and courts a style that's both loosely interactive and telepathic in the tradition of similarly adventurous outfits like The Art Ensemble of Chicago.

The band's strengths are on ample display in the ruminative “Exter Opening,” a showcase for Henriksen's crying smears, Ballamy's serpentine sax, and Strønen's exotic percussive colour. Food's quieter side provides the set's most affecting moments, including the prayerful ballad “Daddycation,” whose unison sax, bass, and trumpet statement leads into gentle, flute-like trumpet musings (in fact Henriksen's sound has been likened to a shakuhachi flute and his affinity for Japanese culture is evidenced by the title of his first solo release Sakuteiki), and the dirge-like closer “Last Supper” where Henriksen's plaintive voice and Ballamy's lonely sax intone a ghostly theme amidst drum tinklings and rolls, electronics, and bass throbs. The meditative intro of Coltranesque tenor playing that distinguishes “Christcookies” also deserves mention.

Certainly Strønen impresses with his remarkably inventive playing, electronics are integrated subtly as opposed to gratuitously, and Ballamy and Henriksen emerge as ideal lyrical foils. Furthermore, at thirty-nine minutes the album is succinct, even though music of this stripe typically benefits when given more room to stretch out. Given the caliber of its participants, Last Supper is predictably strong, though not without imperfections; the freer, looser-limbed exploration “Exter Ending” and noisier and funkier “Junkfood” are neither overly distinguished nor memorable, though they do contribute stylistic breadth. Still, while it may not be great in its entirety, Last Supper is inarguably rich and deep enough in its best moments.

February 2005