On “Last Supper” Food still opts for open-ended textures with no chordal center. The subtle use of electronics by all Food members and the focus on harmonic and melodic playing demonstrates the affinity between these players. Last Supper offers unique dreamlike soundscapes, highlighting the idiosyncratic playing of Henriksen, a whispery mode as if he were playing the Japanese shakuhachi flute (very close to Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura's style, especially solo or in duets with his partner, pianist Satoko Fujii), and the lyrical and restrained playing, mainly on the soprano sax, of Ballamy. But this release introduces Strønen as the key player, supplying irregular, fractured and loose rhythms in the tradition of great European improvising drummers such as Paul Lytton, Paul Lovens or Tony Oxley, but always keeping a rhythmic center, except on his own “Daddycation,” the only track on which he does not appear. Strønen's wise and imaginative choice of brush strokes, delicate touches of the cymbals and hand drumming define Last Supper as Food's most mature release. Strønen take the lead part on only one track, the too-short, upbeat “Junkfood,” in which Ballamy, Henriksen and Eilersten try to catch his driving rhythms. As usual with Rune Grammofon's meticulously done releases, a beautiful minimalist sleeve of Kim Hiorthøy matches this beautiful music.
All About Jazz (US)
Attempting to summarise Food's music is something of a challenge. A number of seemingly disparate elements are arranged successively or in combination. These include gentle electronic ambience, folksong keening, chain-rattling worthy of Marley's ghost, impassioned paeans to nature, wistful and highly melodic unison lines, crazed scat singing and lively jazz improvisation. "Daddycation" (first heard on Rune Grammofon's Money Will Ruin Everything anniversary release) is heart-meltingly gorgeous. "Exeter Opening" begins pensively and ends up in a lengthy passage that would do a Miles Davis 70's group proud. The title piece and final track on the album sounds as if Food were soundtracking an Ingmar Bergman or Andrei Tarkovsky film. It's medieval, mythic and haunting with a beguiling solemnity that belies the album's occasional humour to deliver a mourning farewell. Try listening to Last Supper in headphones while walking through your local shopping centre. It may just make for a transporting, surreal experience: the music gave me the feeling that I was a traveller out of time, a brief visitor from another place entirely. Last Supper is a moving antidote for our beleaguered times.
BBC Online (NO)
State of the art electro-acoustic improvisation from the Norway-UK all-star quartet whose previous three albums made a well-deserved splash. This may well be the best of the lot, though much of it is closer to a kind of musical version of the Shipping Forecast than it is to jazz. Themes ebb and flow as musical tides turn, from chilled and lyrical loops to free-improv tempests, but such is the mastery editing that nothing outstays its welcome and the disparate parts coalesce into a very satisfying whole. The opening piece is audio-heaven: Arvo Pärt meets ”In A Silent Way”. 5/5.
The Independent (UK)
Anglo-Norwegian group utilise electronics and many of the sounds and textures of ambient music to create their own beautiful post-jazz electronica. ”Last Supper” has a folksy choral feel with Ballamy´s poignant lyricism and Henriksen´s breathy trumpet sound perfectly framed against the resonant bass notes and squidgy swirling electronics. It´s their finest album but has a melancholic quality that sounds suspiciously like a farewell.
Time Out London (UK)
Ooh, nice. Rune Grammofon´s a label on a deeply interesting roll right now with a slew of new releases of brainy, beautiful contemporary music and this, with its half-breath, half-note trumpet tones, electronic soundscapery, acoustic bass, shiny percussion and sweet saxes from Iain Ballamy, is a lovely example. Colourful, clever and often properly affecting, the restraint, instrumental virtuosity and admirable commitment to seeing every song through mean that even when ”Last Supper” is complex it´s never flashy.
Straight No Chaser (UK)
There´s enough space on ”Last Supper” to allow for an immense delicacy to play itself out. Brass from Ballamy and Henriksen assume high-floating melody lines that are kept aloft by some understated rhythm work from Eilertsen and Strønen, aided by tiny electronic atmospherics. Superb.
The Wire (UK)
The quartet is horn-led without the sax and trumpet becoming the fulcrum for the movement of each track, their looping overlays and uniformities creating instead the drifting backdrop from which all of Last Supper's small surprises burst like budding desert flowers. Strønen's percussion bears the influence of the gamelan sound as well as the sparse, resonant bleats that would characterize Asian musical drama. Henriksen's playing, on the other hand, sounds less Eastern than usual, opting to connect distinct sound events rather than punctuate their contrastive parts. His playing, and the interconnected of the album's tracks, their seductive whole, reminds me most of In a Silent Way, a recording that for me has always represented a perfect open-endedness of mood. It is music that through familiar means and a relatively even keel reaches a magical point of atmospheric flux and regeneration. Those attracted by “Daddycation,” the song included on last year's defining Rune compilation Money Will Ruin Everything, will be pleased to find it repeated here among tracks which mirror its vague and triumphant sense of melancholy.
Food, however, have access to a range of styles and treat them all with respect, craftsmanship and above all invention. Echoes can be heard of European folk melodies, Japanese flute music, early church chants as well as the judicious absorption of electronic samples. Incorporating these sounds with the quartet's jazz inclinations results in a balance that mixes the lyrical sax/trumpet of Henriksen and Iain Ballamy with Thomas Stronen's extensive percussion vocabulary and some deeply resonant bass courtesy of Mats Eilertsen, whose playing, at times, sounds reminiscent of Charlie Haden. The use of electronics, which all members are involved in, completes the mix and ensures that Food are no ordinary 'jazz quartet' but a unit in which varying textures are entirely integrated to form unique soundscapes. Whatever their future, this recording stands as a lasting statement from a band that has been in a constant state of fruitful evolution.
Much of the album has an ambient spaciousness, but it's far from minimalist. That Sketches of Spain feel emerges in the early passages, with Henriksen's yielding trumpet sound whispering over a repeating loop of descending, choir-like sighs. When Ballamy joins him on soprano sax, echoes of the late 1960s Davis/Shorter sound are given a distantly anarchic spin by Stronen's hustling free-percussion. On tenor saxophone, Ballamy explores a more ambient feel over dark keyboard chords and sporadic cymbal-showers, and a folksy swelling-and-fading theme gives way to a warped Miles disco-funk. Violin-like sounds wind through tapestries of electronica, didgeridoo-sonorities reverberate beneath, and a noise like a distant but elephantine funk band evolves into what a gamelan orchestra might sound like with free-jazz improvisers in it. Another musically imaginative menu. 4/5.
The Guardian (UK)
Album opener “Exeter Opening” sets an atmospheric tone that's carried throughout the rest of the album. Usually atmospheric is synonymous with boring, but with Food there's always just enough going on, and never too much. Food's ability to fulfill is undeniable. Last Supper is a beautiful album that pulls off the rare feat of being very original while also being accessible. For fans of the bands previous work, fans of Rune Grammofon, or fans of laid-back jazz, Food is like visiting a great restaurant: Sit back and your meal will be brought to you; the experience is worth every penny. Furthermore while the album leaves you full, your appetite for more is unquenchable.
From the start, Food have managed to create their own sound world that is quite unique; their first two albums for Feral records were purely acoustic, but even then they managed to harness an extraordinary palette of sounds into each performance. With their move to Rune Grammofon and ”Veggie” from 2002, they incorporated electronics that forms an intriguing sonic backdrop for some of the pieces on ”Last Supper”. The music unfolds in a series of abbreviated episodes, sometimes fragmentary, but always enigmatically and often elliptically.
There is a certain tension in their expression, and often a certain melancholy, maybe due to the fact that this is Arve Henriksen´s last recording with the band. The Food collective takes us to unusally beautiful and exciting places, places with air and room for reflection. This band and their music is like nothing else out there, which is as great a compliment as I can think of.
The group's second disc, ”Last Supper” (Rune Grammofon), is one more dazzling example of the sort of intelligent, beatific, ambient electro-jazz that pours out of Norway. Unlike Henriksen's group Supersilent, which focuses on noise as ambience, Food hews closer to the trumpeter-vocalist's solo records ”Chiaroscuro” and ”Sakuteiki” (both Rune Grammofon), which are bathed in his breathy brass exhalations and mountaintop tenor glossolalia. More than keeping time, Stronen plays coloristic percussive timbres. But as on the more beat-crazy ”Humcrush” (Rune Grammofone), his improv-duets CD with keyboardist Stale Storlokken, Stronen drums in an open-ended style without letting the music fall apart. Henriksen comes from the world of experimental Don Cherry and electric Miles Davis as well as that of his fellow trumpeting, singing Norwegian Per Jorgensen. But he's such a singular horn player with a well-defined aesthetic that Henriksen's musical approach might be considered a style unto itself.
While holding true to their past affinity for harmonic and melodic avant-jazz, as well as open-ended textures with no chordal center, their own Last Supper repaints their canvas with Thomas Stronen's wise-hearted, imaginative choice of brushstrokes, the breathy, idiosyncratic playing of Arve Henriksen's trumpet, and lyrical outbursts from Iain Ballamy's soprano sax. Soft, almost cottony electronics interweave these disparate elements, branching out from each, smoothing the edges into plumes of enchanting aural atmospheres. The tension between Henriksen's tender trumpet and Ballamy's sax, each instrument cueing the other in an ongoing collaboration, speaks to the group's sense of economy and invention. Indeed, the near-symbiotic relationship of the two instruments affords interlaced harmonies, a mirthful spontaneity, and alluring shapes, form and substance. As the title implies, Last Supper may well see the present members about to part. For all that, this final touch-up allows attentive listeners to revel in the free play of imagination and understanding.
A loop of electronic strings shimmers into life, percussion tinkles and trumpeter Arve Henriksen plays a solo of breathy loveliness as Iain Ballamy offers a delicate saxophone counterpoint. The mesmeric effect is as close to Arvo Pärt as to jazz: chill-out music with brains. Sometimes strange, often bleakly beautiful, ”Last Supper” is surprisingly accessible. If you buy only one album of North European free improvisation this year, make it this one.
The Times (UK)
Music as beautiful as hymns.
Dagens Nyheter (SE)