One may honestly say that this new album by the Finnish ensemble The Free Players is quite a surprise, indeed! Instead of the rather rough-sounding free folk improvisations that are commonly associated with the group, this CD features a rather eclectic selection of blues-oriented jams with an angular psych-funk twist to it.
Although the first track is somewhat along the lines of the music traditionally performed by the ensemble ? an assemblage of carefully organized noise blending free-jazz gestures with other influences ranging from ambient to experimental and early electronics ?, there are definitely some blues elements that can be detected throughout.
However, the jams that are unravelling before our ears are still imbued with a unique conception of performance. And in this case, it is the sound of The Free Players having fun as they?re playing ? in every sense of the word ? with a variety of musical forms, all instrumental in nature.
As far as the music goes, the third track ?Joy In Blue? sets the tone for the whole recording. It is an impressive psych-blues-rock jam driven by a repetitive electronic beat that gives the track a rather ?groovy? kind of mood. As much as it actually rocks (!), it is soon followed by a piece (?Before The Midnight?) which almost sounds abstract in comparison. Still, a few disjointed saxophone licks are repeated over and over again, thus creating an understated kind of trance in which the more traditional sound of the Free Players is far from being totally absent. One thing that should also be mentioned is how important the texture of the recording actually is. It is as low-fi and vibrant as it is characteristic of the Finnish ensemble.
Consequently, the interactions between the musicians are always very intense. Yet, this is not the kind of ?music buddies? blues jams that you may think of! The CD itself is mostly divided between long-form improvisations and shorter vignettes that may range from delicate abstract constructs to more concise mixtures of a variety of styles.
You will thus hear a few space rock/ free jazz outings every now and then (?All Peaceful?) ? some features of which may, in some cases, help delineate a rather cosmic, almost tribal vibe that remains totally entrancing throughout (?Rise From The Stars?). Flutes, harmonic vocalizations (courtesy of Keijo), other sparse vocal interjections and a few distorted synths complete the whole picture.
Jazz-like electric guitar lines permeate the sound space on almost every track as does a very deep-sounding assemblage of percussions (cymbals, gongs, etc.). In addition to these more epic jams, there are also a few shorter tracks which may be as atmospheric and abstract (?From Dreams of Reality?) as they are dynamic and complex (?Humble Steps?)... and quite fun (?In The Pictures of Mind?)!
Although at first hearing I was not entirely convinced by these jams, partly because of the stereotyped expectations I may have had, I must admit that the more I actually listened to this CD, the more I began to feel the fun, may I say the ?funk? that is contained within this recording! In other words, this music is really enjoyable for its own sake, although it is not necessarily representative of the truly unique musical world that has been developped over the years by this group of wonderfully-talented musicians. 7/10 -- Francois Hubert (16 October, 2006)