THE ALVARET ENSEMBLE - The Alvaret Ensemble

The Alvaret Ensemble - The Alvaret Ensemble

10 songs
84:53 minutes


I am always intrigued by bands that set out to sound entirely different from the general consensus. So when I got my hands on the self-titled debut album by The Alvaret Ensemble, I didn’t hesitate to put it on my stereo. Released as a double-vinyl and a double-CD, it contains ten songs that make it to well over eighty minutes. The songs also don’t have typical names, but all come with a cryptic three-letter title.

Consisting of British born and Berlin residing pianist Greg Haines and three Dutch musicians on guitar, percussion and poems (!), the quartet invited a couple of friends to provide violins, trombone and church organ… the latter only by chance, as the album was recorded during three days at the Grünewaldkirche in Berlin.

My first impression put the Alvaret Ensemble a little in the territory of the doom jazz genre (Bohren und der Club of Gore, The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble,…), but there is a lot of minimalist classical music also. But most of all, there is a whole lot of nothing. The Alvaret Ensemble are truly masters of silence. A little like Talk Talk on their last two albums, this quartet seemingly only fills the acoustic void with occasional touches of music. So at times you hear next to nothing, and then a piano gently chimes in, to be joined by the other instruments, but everything is happening very discreetly, so that there is never any risk of the music becoming too loud. This is minimalism in its purest form! The ten tracks are all improvisations, but the slow pace and the quiet atmosphere allow the musicians to always play together, and not against each other, as can be heard at times during regular jazz impros.

In the end, this eponymous debut double album is full of beautiful moments, but it is not easy to find the right time and place to truly enjoy this collective of musicians subtly trying to find each other. In this hectic time and age, The Alvaret Ensemble run the risk of drowning in the background noise of the busy world around them. But if you happen to find one and a half hour of quiet time available, why don’t you switch off the electric lights, light a few candles, and immerse yourself into the intimate universe of this band.

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