Somnambule - Writing About Music

Food ~ Last Supper

Last Supper’s mischievious title, surely attributable to saxophonist Iain Ballamy, alludes to the fact that this is the last album recorded by the group in its original form. Arve Henriksen has resigned after four albums, prompted by the need to rationalise a demanding schedule. Guitarist Nils-Olav Johansen has been recruited and the group are apparently already preparing for their next album (perhaps it’ll be called Resurrection Breakfast). Although Last Supper isn’t a radical departure from its forebears, drummer Thomas Stronen’s production succeeds in making Last Supper a much more defined statement than its predecessor, Veggie, which was produced by Deathprod and at times sounded rather too much like a Supersilent side project.

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. Last Supper’s first track, Exeter Opening, begins with reverberating percussion through which rich harmonics courtesy of Mats Eilertsen’s double bass and Ballamy’s plangent saxophone are woven. After a couple of minutes, the music undergoes a magical transfiguration: it’s as though Exeter Cathedral’s stained-glass angels had taken wing, soaring up to the heavens. This latter section, although accompanied by a treated saxophone solo, is particularly reminiscent of Henriksen’s solo performances. It will be interesting to see how the group develops without him. Junkfood is slapdash, squirrel-toed and as noisy as an overturning rag and bone man's cart, 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 beleagered times.
Colin Buttimer
January 2005
Published by the BBC