...And Poppies From Kandahar
A true ‘producer' recording , …And Poppies From Kandahar finds Punkt Festival co-founder Jan Bang stitching samples and live playing by distinctive musicians like Jon Hassell, Nils Petter Molvær, and Arve Henriksen into a seamless, forty-six-minute whole. The Kristiansand, Norway-based Bang comes by such associations honestly: he co-produced Henriksen's Cartography and Chiaroscuro releases, and worked on Jon Hassell's Last Night the Moon Came too. One consequence of using such distinctive players is that their presence can overshadow the producer and relegate Bang to the background, even if his is the guiding hand throughout. The presence of Henriksen's fragile falsetto and hushed trumpet playing make “Self Injury,” for instance, sound more like a Henriksen piece than a Jan Bang creation.
To his credit, the self-described ‘samplist' isn't stingy about sharing composing credits; Hassell and Henricksen both receive co-composing nods on “Passport Control,” for example, even though they appear as sampled, not live, players. Bang's self-effacing personality even carries over into the track titles, which were written by samadhisound founder David Sylvian. Only once does Bang eschew the input of others, specifically during “Suicide Bomber,” a brief clarinet-based collage that, to his credit, opts for mournful quietude rather than the more obvious choice of violent dissonance. Elsewhere, “Passport Control” overlays a looped sample from “Gammler Zen + Hohe Berge” by Germany's Kammerflimmer Kollektief with trumpet samples by Hassell and Henricksen. Orchestral samples of Richard Wagner's music lend “Heidegger's Silence” a deep brooding character, though the turntable contributions of Pal Nyhus give the piece an illbient twist. Continuing on in that classical vein, “Abdication and Coronation” has trumpeter Molvær drape his distinctive murmur over a melody by Robert Schumann.
Bang strikes an effective balance by not overloading the arrangements and by being circumspect in the elements that he does include, as exemplified by the rather skeletal arrangement used for “The Midwife's Dilemma,” which limits its focus to handclaps, Sidsel Ednresen's vocal musings, and a sample of guitarist Eivind Aarset. For the most part, … And Poppies From Kandahar's eleven experimental mood settings exude a meditative and borderless, even “fourth world” quality. They're appealingly restrained too, with Bang preferring to seduce with meticulously arrangements than bludgeon with aggression, and, at certain moments, such as during the closing “Exile From Paradise” where Hassell's trumpet playing gently drifts, an authentic sense of wonder emerges.