Info Over All of Spain the Sky is Clear - Interbellum 
"Over All of Spain the Sky is Clear"
by Interbellum
"The Life and Death of Anne Zimmerman"
"Moitessier Turns Back"

Interbellum's URL


fn issue October 2011
'N-Plants' - Biosphere
'Sky Snails' - The Electric Golem
'Echo Park' - Willamette
'Gramophone Transmissions' - Broken Harbour
'Negative Space' - Blue Sausage Infant
'Home Patterning' - compilation
'Polychromatic Integers' - Richard Lainhart
'Generate Records' - compilation
'Sung In Broken Symmetry' - Aquarelle

The best contemporary musicians cannot be pigeonholed into genres, to be contained as "rock", "jazz", "ambient", or even "classical" musicians. Musical training often means being steeped in a long tradition, such as classical or jazz, but working musicians are often exposed to the most commercial pop forms and the most experimental and unclassifiable sounds that come from the combination of fertile minds and cheap computing power. One such example is Chicago artist Brendan Burke, drummer for a couple of obscure indie rock outfits in the early 1990s, recording engineer for some great free jazz musicians in the recent Chicago jazz renaissance, including Ken Vandermark and Peter Brotzmann, and the primary musician behind Interbellum, a post-classical ambient project whose first release, Over All of Spain the Sky is Clear, came out late in 2008.

Interbellum plays a languid, melancholy soundtrack for rainy afternoons and Sunday mornings. A studio project with two musicians, Burke on piano and sampler and Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, Interbellum updates the cello-piano duet with manipulations and noises from Burke's studio arsenal. The album contains seven pieces, ranging in length from three minutes to twenty-two, but each piece has nearly the same slow tempo, gentle chord progressions, and multiple cello lines. Burke also incorporates a variety of noises, from radio broadcasts, scratchy old 78s, to vaguely comprehensible voices and subterranean rumblings. The piano never plays any fast passage work, but sticks primarily to a broken chordal accompaniment and occasional single note, diatonic melodies. But its resonance is enhanced, filling the spaces and creating a harmonic cloud for Lonberg-Holm's cello. Despite the triadic piano chords, there's no sense of resolution or closure to any of the melodies, just a perpetual and gentle drift.

But the cello is the primary focus for the album. Typically there are at least two cello lines, one in the foreground and others providing echoes and harmonies. Sometimes Lonberg-Holm uses the cello's malleable pitch capabilities to settle between the piano notes, creating a thicker texture. Sometimes Burke distorts the cello, transforming it into an over-driven electronic smear, and perhaps using it as a source for some of his subtle noise creations. The ocean waves on the album cover, taken from Interbellum's video and emphasized with the last track's title reference to world class sailor Bernard Moitessier, provide apt allusion to Interbellum's ever wandering melodies.

This review shouldn't finish without a brief mention of Interbellum's label, FSS, a relatively new entity that releases only as 180-gram vinyl or high quality, DRM-free downloads, but not on compact disc. Recognizing that vinyl is a growth area in current music sales (even if its absolute numbers remain small), FSS satisfies the premium sound enthusiasts and bypasses many of the compact disc's growing distribution problems. It's a welcome and innovative solution for the current economic problems for music distributors, and we look forward to its success.

Review by Caleb Deupree


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