Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


by Ian Mann

October 18, 2007


At last The Inner Noise realise their ambitions. Dramatic music from this unique trio.

Israeli drummer Asaf Sirkis is probably best known for his role in his compatriot Gilad Atzmon’s band. However Sirkis is in great demand for other projects and also finds time to lead his own unique ensemble, The Inner Noise.

Sirkis’ band sees him collaborating with guitarist Mike Outram and experienced keyboard man Steve Lodder. Much of The Inner Noise’s distinctiveness comes from their attempts to integrate the sound of the church organ into a jazz context.

This is certainly a bold and innovative step even if the resultant music sounds as close to progressive rock as it does to jazz. ELP have been mentioned as an influence but Van Der Graaf Generator made the best fist of integrating a pipe organ sound into rock. With VDGG currently operating as a trio and with organist Hugh Banton now adopting a more prominent role than ever before they seem the most obvious parallel to me, Peter Hammill’s voice notwithstanding.

“The Song Within” is the third Inner Noise album following their eponymous debut in 2003 and 2005’s “We Are Falling”. I’ve not heard the first album but found “We Are Falling” to be something of a disappointment. Despite some great playing in a genre that I normally enjoy I didn’t really feel that the compositions were strong enough to hold the listener’s interest. Also Lodder’s parts were recorded using electronic keyboards and the “church organ” sound was not always totally convincing.

“The Song Within” however marks a definite improvement. For three of the tracks Lodder was recorded using the organ at St. Michael’s Church, Highgate (this instrument also featured on the band’s first album) although he uses electronic keyboards elsewhere. There has also been a marked upturn in the quality of Sirkis’ writing and one gets the feeling that this time round the band are starting to realise the scope of their ambitions and are finally creating the sounds and impressions they originally set out to achieve.

From the outset this is dramatic music with Sirkis’ powerhouse drumming, Outram’s soaraway guitar and Lodder’s deep, rich keyboard chording.

The spacey title track opens proceedings and is comparatively laid back compared to what is to follow. Sirkis plays with controlled power as the outstanding Outram contributes the first of an excellent series of guitar explorations.

“Nothingness First Part 1.Nothingness” may have a cringe inducing prog rock title but the music contained therein is magnificent and awe inspiring. Outram conjures up orgasmic, feverish solos from behind Lodder’s crashing organ chords and Sirkis’ dynamic drumming. The overall effect is hugely exhilarating and effective. This is quite possibly the best thing the group have recorded and puts some of the rather stodgy fare on the previous album in the shade.

“When You Ask Why” briefly features Outram on acoustic before the guitarist once again takes off for the stratosphere on yet another dramatic offering. Lodder’s sweeping organ sounds are also featured and this time round sound much more convincing.

“Nothingness First Part II.Love” is a solo feature for Lodder recorded at St. Michael’s and this leads into the haunting “Miniature” which features the spacey, glacial guitar of Outram. Initially there is a hint of Dave Gilmour’s sound about Outram’s playing but with the aid of Lodder and Sirkis he soon stamps his own authority on the piece.

“Hymn” also hints at the Floyd sound at times as it builds from quiet beginnings to flat out magnificence with soaring guitar and crashing drums.

“Theme For Gary” is another church recorded organ interlude and is dedicated to Gary Husband, one of Sirkis’ drum (and very possibly piano) heroes.

The enigmatic “The Shadow” lives up to it’s title with Lodder’s sepulchral organ tones and shadowy synthesiser. Sirkis’ inventive drumming acts as the perfect foil and includes the imaginative use of cymbals.

Another brief organ piece “Sweet Song” closes the album on an elegiac, hymn like note.

“The Song Within” marks a significant step forward for this unique trio. More focussed and less bombastic than it’s immediate predecessor I found that I positively enjoyed this album. The writing is certainly sharper and the album better programmed than “We Are Falling” where the “space” theme ultimately proved to be limiting.

Instrumentally all three protagonists are excellent but I was particularly impressed by the intensity and invention of Outram’s playing. Lodder obviously gives the group it’s distinctive sound but it is Outram who lifts the music to another level. As ever Sirkis impresses behind the kit, a study in controlled power, but on this album he excels as a writer too.

This time round The Inner Noise seem to have nailed it and it would be interesting to see this music performed live.

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