It's hard to believe that this is the fifth full-length release from Food, but that is indeed the case. The first album from the group since Last Supper came out almost four years ago, Molecular Gastronomy finds the group pared down to only two members, and yet this minimal lineup finds them putting out their best work in some time. If you've paid attention to Rune Grammofon records at all over the course of the past several years, you're probably already familiar with Thomas Strønen (who has released work under his own name, but is also one-half of Humcrush), and he's again joined this time out by Iain Ballamy, who contributes saxophone and alto flute work.
To my ears, the biggest difference with the ten songs and just over forty-five minutes of this release is that it seems incredibly focused compared to past work from the group. In many ways, it also sounds a lot more accessible, although I certainly don't mean that in a bad way. Stripped down to only two members, it seems that there's a much tighter bond between the players involved, with less dalliances and some truly head-splitting moments along the way. After the soft haze of the opener "Khymos," things really kick off with the romping "Apparatus," which is one of many tracks where Strønen lets loose with his insane drum and programming skills. Building from soft saxophone wafts, percussion layers in slowly, until it's skipping through intricate, but intense rhythmic workouts while Ballamy adds a lighter melodic drift over it all.
"Red Algae" slows the pace down a bit, and the track approximates more closely some sort of futuristic jazz bar sound, but just about the time things sound like they're going to settle into a more sedate vibe, Strønen again shakes things up with some inventive percussive shuffling. It's not all crazy beats, though, and in several places Molecular Gastronomy downshifts into lush, layered pieces that mix Ballamy's alto flute work with subtle electronics in a way that lets the organic instrumentation shine. "The Larder Chef" is a particular standout, with soft melodic curls delaying into the distance every so often to emphasize certain phrases.
Mostly improvised, the release oddly sounds more 'written" than some of their past work, perhaps because of the smaller lineup. Even though it was recorded over the course of two years, it has a nicely cohesive feel, with the great recording that one would expect from a release on the Rune Grammofon label. Another in a long line of great experimental jazz recordings from the label, you'll enjoy this is you like any of the aforementioned work.