Album Reviews

Super Numeri – The Welcome Table

(Ninja Tune) UK release date: 28 November 2005

Maybe it’s the dire warnings of oncoming avian influenza, but Liverpudlian trio Super Numeri have managed to skip the feathery references for their third album.

After aligning themselves with Great Aviaries and The Coastal Bird Scene for albums one and two, Karl Webb, Snap Ant, and Pop Levi roll out The Welcome Table for ’05.

Bad bird PR notwithstanding, the trio’s mode of playability remains firm. Though each of the seven compositions of The Welcome Table each tick along with their own internal logic, each one has its own definable character.

Ninja Tune acts of yore all surfed on the exploration of newly emergent and emerging digital technology. Though unimaginable in a pre-digital world Super Numeri’s inquisitive style discovers the regularity of its pulse by live collaboration.

Or at least that’s what much of this record sounds like. The Welcome Table’s shifting aura may well be the work of artful cutting and pasting in the manner of Teo Macero, random overlapping pieces manipulated into cohesive wholes, but the point is that it appears generative.

Bordered by a scattering of blunted flutes, The Buzzard & The Lamb’s steadily modulating burble furtively blooms into a congo-led dialogue between the rhythm section, the zither-like tones of the bass evoking an almost febrile tension. If A Certain Ratio had been ignorant of the dance floor, they may have sounded a little like this.

By comparison, the claustrophobic geometry of The Chart has little of the same free-associative improvisation. Though its ambulatory stomp is peppered with stock sounds of tape-reverse and harp-borne ethereality, it has the tautness of a metronome, sorta like if Can had composed an accompaniment to Ted Hughes’ Iron Man.

With all manner of stray instruments filtered in, much of The Welcome Table is a zoo of sounds, some dissonant, many harmonising. Rather than evoking lupine tangents, The Sea Wolves rather suggest yet more feathery connections. This birdsong lament slowly spreads its plumage to reveal a peacock rainbow of koto tones and gamelan horizons.

When they coast, as in the clubfooted thud of The Babies, Super Numeri sound unthrilled with one another. When they arch towards a kind of environment music, as in the title track’s cuckoo dialogue, they are as pleasingly discontent with the role of background fodder as Swedish oddballs Mum.

Geographically speaking, The Welcome Table says much for the hard-drive integration of global music. Far away from the sterile atmosphere that characterise many attempts to incorporate the disparate vernaculars of ‘world’ music (usually by wealthy rock stars), Super Numeri offer subjective interpretation, not colonisation. The Welcome Table may suggest other lands, indeed other worlds, but their actual nature remains unresolved.

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Super Numeri – The Welcome Table