Drum'n'bass topped by cool horn statements and mournful string parts.
Martin Longley 2011
Trumpeter Rory Simmons is one of the lesser-known members of The Loop Collective, but as the leader of Fringe Magnetic he embraces the role of auteur. Several members of this large ensemble are already known as bandleaders or key players in other combos. Loop itself has sprung sideways from, and developed parallel to, the more-or-less similar F-IRE Collective. Nowadays, the Loop is becoming as significant and active as F-IRE in its patronage of fresh and probing jazz sounds on the London scene.
Simmons composes and arranges all of the somewhat suite-like pieces on this second Fringe Magnetic album. His intricate manoeuvrings operate around a jazz framework, but with copious elements that spring from the world of modern classical composition. There's not a saxophone in sight, but James Allsopp's clarinet array is capable of an equal amount of potential roughage. The presence of Tori Freestone's darting flute makes the horn front-line quite atypical. Simmons sometimes switches to flugelhorn, and the core line-up also features violin, cello and drums. Ivo Neame (of Phronesis fame) contributes piano on three tracks, and there are guest spots from bassist Jasper Hoiby and clarinettist Robin Fincker.
A summation of the Simmons style would involve the mention of New York composer and drummer John Hollenbeck's equally jazz-classical crossovers, along with the older-school English partnership of Mike and Kate Westbrook. This latter comparison is due to the heavy presence of singers on around half of the pieces herein. There's a music-theatre character, but seemingly without a governing narrative. When Elisabeth Nygaard and Andrew Plummer sing, the music is steeped in the essence of Brecht and Weill, although maybe as interpreted by David Bowie. Both Fringe Magnetic vocalists write their own words. Nygaard is mountain-stream pure, whilst Plummer has a beer-gargling deepness.
Drum'n'bass percussion skitterings are topped by cool horn statements and mournful string parts. Twitchiness is paramount. Bright precision abounds. Simmons takes a couple of impressive solos himself. Another musical forerunner might be the Dutch ICP Orchestra. Fidgety, convoluted themes are delivered with engaging instrumental textures – spiky and scaly one moment, silken and luxuriant the next. If there's a military parade, it will lurch. Maybe, by the half-way point, there's a too cumulatively academic bent, but there's still a sparkling depth to be admired. Terje Evensen changes the mood on Apochryful, coating with sombre electronic atmospheres, and Jamie Cullum guests on the closing song, duetting with Nygaard on the oddly captivating Play It Once More.