Artist: David Virelles
Title: Antenna
Genre: Jazz
Release Date: 2016
Duration: 00:21:43
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/88,2kHz
Label: ECM Records

The music of Cuban-born, Brooklyn-based pianist David Virelles conjures a hallucinatory world in which ancient Afro-Cuban rhythms and ritual reverberate in the here and now. His latest ECM offering is Antenna, music attuned to a timeless rhythmic-cultural current even as it pulses with a vibrantly urban, modernist energy. Antenna — a six-track, 22-minute EP to be released exclusively on vinyl and digitally — sees Virelles channel Afro-Cuban percussion into an electro-acoustic, almost psychedelic swirl, one that melds jazz improvisation and organic grooves with digital refraction, shadowy synthesizers, otherworldly field recordings and Cuban street poetry. Antenna is an undulating, throbbing, dizzying dream of sound. Mbk, the pianist’s ECM leader debut from 2014, featured in Best Of The Year lists in The New York Times, NPR, iTunes and The Village Voice, among others. The Guardian described Mbk as “a jazz-infused world-music project beyond categories,” adding: “Virelles looks set to make big differences in contemporary music for years to come.”

David Virelles’ ECM follow-up to 2014’s astonishing Mboko label debut is Antenna, a six-track EP rooted in the same musical terrain while differing in its mode of expression. The keyboardist, composer, and producer has long been a sonic explorer; he’s deeply involved with the experimental electronic music scene in New York. Sound rather than music has obsessed Virelles since he was a child, because of its ability to create narrative and alter metaphysical perceptions. That’s in ample evidence here; he acts as much like a producer and strategist as he does a jazz pianist. In addition to acoustic piano, Virelles employs Hammond B-3, Roland Juno-6, electric and prepared pianos, and various samplers. He re-enlists vocalist Romn Daz and drummer Marcus Gilmore from the Mboko team. The latter not only plays drums but accompanies samples of them to create expansive new grooves. Opening track “Binary” is constructed almost entirely of the ritualistic Afro-Cuban rhythms showcased on the earlier album, but with a twist. While congas and bata drums are played in dialogic exchange by Mauricio Herrara and Gilmore, they are appended with sampled bird song and the fragmented rhythmic sequences of Los Seres, a fictional percussion ensemble created by Virelles. It’s simultaneously hyperkinetic and trance-inducing. Henry Threadgill adds his treated, multi-tracked alto saxophone to the all-too-brief ballad “Water, Bird-Headed Mistress.” Co-produced by cellist/electronicist Alexander Overington, it’s structured like a story as his bluesy horn is accompanied by droning cello and ambient washes of nocturnal sounds. “Threshold” features squawking cello, bird song samples, insect sounds, jazz drums, B-3 drones, percussion samples, and distorted electric guitar, all spindled to hallucinatory effect before a multi-layered vocal chant claims the center. (Gilles Peterson grabbed hold of this cut hard, playing it repeatedly on his show.) “Rumbakua” delivers off-kilter breaks, as Cuban rapper Etin Brebaje Man delivers rhymes, while sultry electric piano staggers between funky jazz and carnival melody. The set’s finest (and longest) cut, “El Titan de Bronce,” offers electro-acoustic jazz improvisation built on a rhythmic sequence by piano and drums. Electric guitar and sampled snares attempt to frame Virelles’ canny, labyrinthine solo that investigates scale, mode, and polyrhythms, but it’s too mercurial. While it’s hard to say whether fans of Mboko will be able to embrace Antenna or simply scratch their heads, those interested in 21st century experimental music should flock to it. This set erases boundaries between genre and sound, placing them in service to the creative process. These six shapeshifting stories are as illustrative as they are elusive. If Antenna has a shortcoming, it’s simply because it’s too brief, and that’s a good problem to have for a musician. –AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek


  1. Binary – 2:32
  2. Water, Bird Headed Mistress – 2:27
  3. Threshold – 5:33
  4. Rumbakuá – 2:39
  5. El Titán De Bronce – 6:46
  6. Text – 1:51