The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - From The Stairwell (Denovali)

Third full length record remains open to interpretation.

Released Apr 7th, 2011 via Denovali / By Brendan Morgan
The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - From The Stairwell (Denovali) The infinite spiral staircase on the album cover, spiralling upwards into pitch black shadow rises out of the very core of The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble’s newest release. Sinister and yet somehow inviting, like the music inside, it recalls the noir atmosphere of art house cinema: dark Paris streets, the smell of rotten wood, empty rooms in the dilapidated parts of the sprawl.

Native of the Jazz-mad Netherlands and originally banded to write music ‘for existing and non-existing films’, TKDE’s emphasis on ‘the mood’ as they call it is achieved by a dense layering of sound and by creepy, jarring changes (‘All Is One’ begins on a windy, rugged plane before moving into a seedy and shadowy bar where an unnerving bastardisation of lounge Jazz is being crooned.) Seamlessly blending techniques and styles plucked from many genres, it flickers from Bonobo, Jagga Jazzist, Massive Attack and the grandiose approach of A Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra. Is it Post Rock? Is it futuristic Jazz? Is it IDM?

Even though these days the term has been pretty well worn thin, From The Stairwell is very much a concept album that takes the listener on a surreal trip up that staircase on the cover. But the story they’ve attached to the album doesn’t necessarily define it. Records like this remind you that categories are ultimately pointless. TKDE’s music has always been perfectly happy to melt into the background and play out as a backdrop to the musings of the interpreter.

At first, ‘Godard Delusion’ calls us in with a troop of gypsy violinists over breezy and expressive drums. Then, gradually, it opens out into a watery guitar melody. ‘Giallo’ slithers along with its low saxophone while ‘Celladoor’ (yes, Donnie Darko does come to mind) builds from a drifting and dangerous atmosphere into an air of dark romance.

From The Stairwell retains the recognisable down-tempo tone and instrumental structure of their previous work (echoing trumpets, slow drones and brushes on cymbals) but it also sees the band pulling the mix back and refining their improvisational style for a more acoustic flavour. A stunning mixture of musicianship and late night, candle lit cool, this is music to smoke clove cigarettes and read Beat poetry to.