Food: This Is Not a Miracle

Food has altered its recipe again, and the results are delicious. The experimental jazz group has been a quartet and a duo with guests, and now it’s sort of a trio. The two leaders and founding members-British saxophonist Iain Ballamy and Norwegian drummer/keyboardist Thomas Strønen-return with their favorite Austrian guitarist, Christian Fennesz, for the eighth Food album and the ensemble’s third on ECM, This Is Not a Miracle. All three musicians are also credited with “electronics,” and this is important, for Food’s music relies as much as ever on electronic manipulation and alteration.

This Is Not a Miracle is dreamy, effervescent and constantly shifting-waves bobbing on oceans, tree limbs swaying in breezes. Rarely has the marriage of acoustic and electronic seemed so natural. Ballamy’s saxophone is plaintive, almost recessive, and the guitar, keys, percussion and electronics are interwoven so tightly that elements disappear inside one another. Is that a guitar, an electric piano or a computer? It’s entirely unclear, and it doesn’t matter at all. Although the music sounds organic, post-production knob-twiddling played a large role in the making of this record. Segments were “chopped apart and moved around,” according to Strønen. Drum-and-bass is referenced on tunes like “First Sorrow” and “Without the Laws,” whereas “Where Dry Desert Ends”-with arpeggiated Moog chords over Ballamy’s long, sustained notes-reads like a mix of sci-fi movie music, French electronica and Jan Garbarek experimentations. Ballamy’s melancholy playing against electronically flattened percussion in “The Concept of Density” suggests a transitional movie scene, and the juxtaposition of his detached, Scandinavian-style blowing with icy electronic percussion on “Exposed to Frost” constitutes the highest and best use of jazztronica.