Boomkat Product Review:
Levitational neo-classical material here from Nguzunguzu's Asma Maroof (aka Asmara) in collaboration with PAN cellist and composer Patrick Belaga and saxophonist Tapiwa Svosve. It's fantastical, soundtrack-adjacent gear for anyone who's into Jon Hassell, Dorothy Ashby or Arve Henriksen.
Maroof, Belaga and Svosve have been working together for years in Moved by the Motion, a "roving band" that also includes filmmaker Wu Tsang, performer and dancer Tosh Basco and dancer Josh Johnson. Here, Maroof distills the sound they've been developing into an amorous essence, taking Belaga and Svosve's virtuosic improvisations and chiseling them into dreamlike expressions that shift imperceptibly between the acoustic and the electronic. 'The Sport of Love' is the trio's attempt at figuring out a contemporary answer to romanticism; the digital age may have warped our attitudes towards love, but for Maroof, Belaga and Svosve, its contradictions are just as worthy of an artistic response as they ever were. And if Keats and Shelley were able to romanticize their rapidly-industrializing reality in the 19th Century, we deserve a commentary that takes into account not only the progressive commodification of desire but the more recent gamification of relationships.
They start as they mean to go on with the cheeky 'G Major Kinda Love', a short example of the trio's musicianship as well as their motivation. Svosve's elegiac sax reminds us of a bygone era of romance, situating us outside a café in Paris under orange light while Belaga's strings are stretched into lugubrious melancholia. Maroof's electronic elements are so subtle they sound almost like a whisper as she adds chemical echoes in the distance or hissing phases that transport us from the fin de siécle into a Berghain bathroom stall. On 'Delicate Distance Between Boulders' Belaga plays piano backed with Maroof's quiet pads, and Svosve reminds of Joanna Brouk's timeless 'Sounds of the Sea' with his delicate flute flourishes. It's music that might be new age if it wasn't so adroitly handled; the contemporary new age movement might have descended into cringe recently, but the trio avoid any shifty wellness trends, instead harking back to the fourth world experiments of Jon Hassell and co.
The album comes to a crushing head with 'The Stranger', a 15-minute epic that features Ayha Simone on harp and Mathieu Edward on drums. Even just hearing Simone's glorious runs for a few seconds, it's hard not to think about romance in its many forms. Accompanied by breathy sax, she echoes Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane, and the track lavishly develops in widescreen, moving like water through Belaga's assured piano and cello movements and Maroof's unsettling, noisy atmospheres. The backbone here is jazz, but the trio flush out any of our easy listening preconceptions and force us to listen differently - if you're into Talk Talk's 'Spirit of Eden', you're in for a treat.