Monday, 20 January 2014

Magnus Öström Band was in İstanbul for Searching for Jupiter Concert on January 18th 2014 at Salon İKSV

I took the early morning flight from Ankara to İstanbul on January 18th. It was cold as usual for winters in Ankara but warm in İstanbul. The sun was shining when I was being transferred from the airport to my hotel at Taksim melting the ice in my ears, which caused me to think that the concert at night would be among special ones. Taksim was crowded in the middle of the day again with many sounds, smells and moving things. Too much even for a multi-processor Virgo brain to perceive easily... 

I met some of the musicians from the band as well as some other friends before the concert and talked about many things - some stayed in my mind, some forgotten. I know that many musicians prefer to stay at the hotel and get rest before the concert to maximize the concentration for the performance. I think I should do the same as a music listener too in order to get the best from performances, since I usually spend a lot of brain effort.

In my opinion, playing music and listening to music is a kind of collaborative process. Surely, playing is at the source and even there is not a listener, the meaning of the music still exists. However, for musicians who have chosen to share and present, we, as listeners, are here to gain what they give. Within this condition, we can describe the process as a collaborative one. Unfortunately, majority of today's music listener consists of people who are in need of being entertained by music. This trend can be easily proven by low album sales, low interest to music reviews, noisy concerts with beers, iPADs and iPhones in people's hands and audience talking to each other, taking photos&videos while trying to follow the performance. Since listening to a concert must be a social event, a dedicated music listener is always affected and get uncomfortable with these cheap trends when the performance is a sophisticated one based on nuances. More than that, these dedicated listeners from time to time choose to stay at home to listen to music only from albums. It is hard for a musician to complain about these things happening during concerts when he/she is trying to present music to a wider audience. You can do that only if you are ready to get over the reactions, which may describe you as just an obsessive old person and/or a musician overstating himself/herself. As a summary, if you care about your musical performance like it is a renaissance paint, you have a little chance to be approved only if you are Keith Jarrett.

Well what is the relation between Magnus Öström Band's concert at Salon İKSV on last Saturday and what I have written above? The relation is that I am a dedicated music listener and there are some "listener" sourced problems in the concert disturbing my critical listening a lot. I was a lot more obsessive in past; but now I got used to these things in time and I could follow what was going on at the stage even there were lots of interference around. However when photographers with clicks, smart phone users with large LCD screens and even iPAD users walked around from time to time and the drinking people started to talk and laugh, the situation became unbearable. You will be surprised when you will learn that I am accused of pulling the hair of the boy sitting in front of my seat when I tried to warn him by touching to his shoulder and tell him to stop closing my view of stage by his smart phone. This interruption was some minutes long. When you live in Turkey you should get used to live with these silly things.

Fortunately, I achieved to keep on listening to the wonderful performance on the stage and here I tried to gather what has left in my mind.

The sounds came before the musicians. It was like the first day of creation of earth: sounds of movements of big land parts and eruption of hot dense water from the ground... Then on coming to the stage the band made an introduction part sounding like -in my opinion- what we hear in the first piece of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, Pharaoh's Dance. The album started after this introduction and the first four pieces are played in the same order with the album started from The Moon (And The Air It Moves). The impressive first piece was very promising for the later parts of the concert with many aspects. 

Dancing At The Dutchtreat is like a sophisticated glitch between two heavy performances like it is in the album. Bassist Thobias Gabrielsson and Andreas Hourdakis were successfully in harmony when the tension of the music tended to increase in this performance. I should again mention the clock-like accuracy and clearness of Magnus Öström's drumming. 

Daniel Karlsson tried a very different partition on piano for Mary Jane Doesn't Live Here Anymore compared to what we hear in the album for this piece. I generally -kind of- remembered Esbjörn Svensson's tone from Daniel Karlsson especially in the pieces which are composed by Magnus Öström as a kind of ballad for Esbjörn. Mary Jane Doesn't Live Here Anymore is such a piece.

With its mystic name, the title track Searching For Jupiter was among the pieces in the album that let the band do many extra things within the composed bars. The introduction part given by Daniel Karlsson's piano, the lightning fast crashes of Magnus Öström at the end of first part which is linked to Andreas Hourdakis' hopeful guitar tone and the last energetic part producing a heavy metal band's sound were all performed very well.

An authentic arrangement for the concert was linking the depressive Weight of Death from previous album Thread of Life to the hopeful Through The Sun from Searching for Jupiter. Let me make a flashback here to E.S.T. going back to before 2000's. Many careful listeners can easily recognize that EST's early records do not contain pieces which are explicitly named with dead-related titles. Until the Viaticum in 2005, we see two implicitly named pieces: "Pavane, Thoughts of a Septuagenarian" in Good Morning Susie Soho reminding us the melancholy in getting old and "Car Crash" in Strange Place for Snow which is dedicated to Swedish jazz musician Jan Johansson, who died in 1968 by a car accident. Viaticum can be described as the last food/bread a human being eats before dying and the album as a whole is related to death even just with this title. Letter from The Leviathan (a sea monster) is another link to the death when we think about Esbjörn Svensson's scuba diving accident after three years. Although Tuesday Wonderland was a little bit more hopeful record, the last album Leucocyte showed us that the main theme of the band became the meaning of this world and our life as time passed: What is earth? What is jazz? What is birth? What is life? What is death? What is eternity? When we come back to Magnus Öström's own albums Weight of Death from Thread of Life was like a part of this continuum. In my opinion, the title track and At The End of Eternity are the followers of this melancholy in Searching for Jupiter.

We learned from Magnus Öström before the performance Happy And The Fall that this composition was for his three year old son and the symbolization is that people should learn to stand up when fallen down - just like a happy child falling down and learning to stand up himself/herself.

At The End Of Eternity already includes a long drum solo in the album. We had a very different and long one from our magician Magnus Öström in the concert whose beginning is dominated by toms without any crashes or hi-hats. The rests between some passages and the tensional final part of this solo were amazing. 

Piano Break Song was played in the encore. The ending part of this piece turned out to be a very different melody and rhythm in time and I felt like I am listening to a piece from Weather Report. Thus, we may say that the concert started with Miles Davis and ended with Wayne ShorterIn between we had contemporary jazz, rock and fusion.

İKSV Salon is one of my favourite performance halls all around the country with its great acoustic conditions and qualified equipment. Adding Magnus Öström and his friend's good soundcheck to this, the resultant sound design was just perfect. Especially the sound from drum kit is just flawless. The drum solos from Magnus Öström produced a real clean and an organic output. The electronic ingredients coming especially from Thobias Gabrielsson and keys from Daniels Karlsson were as clean as their acoustic counterparts.

Note: The photos used in the review were taken by official photographer of İKSV Salon, Ali Güler.

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