Rubisa Patrollers Mark Isham and Art Lande in January 1987, on its release later that year We Begin must've caused a bit of consternation among even hardened ECM fans when they heard its opening moments. Anyone who stuck with the album, though, will have found another minor classic to cherish.
That first sound on opening track The Melancholy Of Departure is a drum machine; not just a low-key accompaniment, but a full minute of big, brash beats before Isham's trumpet and synth join in. His lovely, contemplative melody continues to unfold with subtle piano from Lande; their stately progression completely at odds with the unchanging, Trans Midwest Express rhythm galloping away in the background. This pairing sounds so wrong at first that it's almost comical, but after a few listens I was hooked on it. The eerie ambience of Ceremony In Starlight that follows is another weirdly appealing piece, and not just for how uncannily Jon Hassell-like Isham sounds.
The rest of the album, apart from a lengthy shared composition, switches Lande into the driving seat. The absolutely gorgeous title track shows what the album's opener would be like without the beats, before some subtler percussion is added back in for the brief Lord Ananea. On the album's second half, the 10-minute Surface And Symbol is arguably the album's most successful exploration of rhythm and texture, with Isham layering his trumpet parts over the insistent percussion. After that, we get a lovely Lande piano solo in Sweet Circle, and a fanfare duet to close. All in all, one of the most memorable oddities in the ECM catalogue; it Sometimes shouldn't work, but in Isham and Lande's hands just does.
mega / zippy