Somnambule - Writing About Music

FME (Free Music Ensemble) ~ Underground

FME explore diverse territories in the four long pieces which make up their successor to 2002’s eponymous debut. Underground is full of remarkable performances and brilliant interaction: Paal Nilssen-Love delivers everything from incredibly detailed featherlight percussion figures to powerhouse rhythms. Ken Vandermark worries at a phrase until it unravels or finally makes sense before moving on: he can turn from roiling, honking monster to tender lament on the turn of a dime. Nate McBride’s plangent bass shares the limelight equally with his colleagues. There’s a lengthy, beautifully spare duet between McBride and Vandermark’s keening sax in Part One which might just haunt you long after the music’s over. FME play at a consistently high level while navigating a variety of styles. Although different in many aspects, their intensity and intelligence is often reminiscent Anthony Braxton’s small groups. Underground is brave, challenging music: rich nutrient for the intellect, heart and soul.
Colin Buttimer
June 2004
Published by Jazzwise magazine