Maca Conu is the dazzling new band led by Belgian-born, Oslo-residing pianist, composer and improviser Jonas Cambien, an outfit whose eponymous new release clamours like an exploding kunstkammer of curiosities, where runaway orchestrinas and impish automata cavort and gambol in gloriously frisky frissons.
With its origins in a commission for the 2021 edition of Norway’s Motvind festival, the album also heralds the recorded debut of a starry Scandinavian ensemble, featuring Cambien’s long-time associate, drummer Andreas Wildhagen, low-end powerhouse, double-bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flatan and Danish rising-star saxophonist Signe Emmeluth. Joining forces on Maca Conu, this mighty quartet draw upon combined experiences performing alongside notables including Bugge Wesseltoft, Mats Gustafsson, Tony Buck and Paal Nilssen-Love, while also developing fecund alliances forged in such units as Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra, Jonas Cambien Trio and Emmeluth’s Amoeba, to decipher their bandleader’s combustible glossary, spiking it with feverish chicanery and oodles of candid charm, communicating in hive-mind mode across uncharted cross-sections straddling contemporary composition and free-improvisation.
Skittishly animated cuts such as ‘A Terrible Misunderstanding’, ‘Blue Eyed Pleco’ and ‘The Lesser Evil’ whistle, puff and pulse in a simulacra of bizarre semi-organic machinery, rendering bonus layers of esoteric, abstract mystery with every listen. ‘One Low Now High’ encloses a warbling cameo by guest trombonist Guro Kvåle in the swirling psychedelics of Cambien’s haunting organ whirl, creeping out like a Wurlitzer-raving spook from Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls, while ‘Question the Answer’ finds the core foursome plotting another signature paradox, as meditative, all-enveloping drone stealthily evolves into frenzied arcade machine ruckus.
Maca Conu works like a grand hall of mirrors, distorting the surface of initial contact, altering deeply ingrained assumptions and conventions, continually altering appearances so that nothing is as it first appears. It is a magnificent, yet lasting, illusion.
Signe Emmeluth - saxofon
Ingebrigt Håker Flaten - kontrabass
Andreas Wildhagen - trommer
Jonas Cambien - piano, tangenter og sopransax
Guro Kvåle (gjest) - trombone