Four from Planet August

Instrumental music from Norwegian Mats Eilertsen, the bass player, on his Reveries and Revelations (HUBRO HUBROCD2606) record. It’s mostly solo, but he brought in contributions from other gifted players by sending them music files and inviting them to add their respective instruments – these included guitarist Eivind Aarset, drummer Per Oddvar Johansen, percussionist Thomas Stronen, and others; apparently they didn’t actually work together in the same space, and most of the recording took place in respective home studios. The editing and assembly was all done by Eilertsen, with mixing assist from Daniel Wold. Atmospheric, melancholic; the music elicits deep feelings of yearning from the listener. (21/08/2019)

Propan is two young Norwegians, Natali Garner and Ina Sagstuen, and their second album Trending (SOFA MUSIC SOFA574) was made entirely using their voices in the studio, with overdubs and treatments. A variety of styles emerge; on some, like ‘Berlin Clubbing’, they emulate dancefloor rhythms with their voices, while elsewhere they do melodic tunes (‘The Warmest Kiss’), monotonous chants (’Aiaiai’) and emulate outer-space styled electronic music (‘Jupiter’). Clever and innovative, for sure, but I found it lightweight. The music claims to have something to do with psychedelic music and improvised music, but I’m not buying any of that; Garner and Sagstuen don’t really have the musical skills, nor the depth, to be associated with these genres. Too often their tunes are sentimental and cloying, without doing anything to earn our emotional engagement. Their music is as shallow as yesterday’s Twitter stream. The charm of Trending wears thin very quickly for me, and doesn’t seem to be much more than a novelty record. (12/08/2019)

The work of Todor Todoroff might be a bit closer to architecture and structural engineering than to conventional electro-acoustic composition. He’s been working on “interactive systems” for about 25 years now, making ingenious use of sensors which might be used to trigger sonic events. Almost all of the pieces on Univers Parallèles (empreintes DIGITALes IMED 19160) are based on gestures and movements which create a sound, whether that’s a dancer on stage doing avant-garde steps, or a painter applying the brush to the canvas, or the action of flowing water. From quite small and intimate movements, large-scaled and mysterious sounds emerge. On ‘Rupture d’equilibre’, one of the more dramatic pieces here, it’s done by a pendulum swinging back and forth – or at any rate, a virtual pendulum. Rather than rig up an old grandfather clock, as you or I might have tended to do, Todoroff elected to created a simulation of a pendulum and “played” it like an instrument in a set-up that also included potentiometers (instrument of choice in Stockhausen’s electronic experiments). Interesting methods for sure, though the transformations and distortions that result are not especially bold or unusual, and I found the compositions to be very shapeless and uncertain. However, this Belgian composer has a knack of sometimes turning that uncertainty into intrigue and mystery. (08/2019)

Accordion player Frode Haltli was I think last noted here with his 2014 solo record Vagabonde Blue, on which he had the courage to attempt a piece by Arne Nordheim on that instrument. He’s since developed an interesting turn and followed a pathway which has been influenced by his understanding of Norwegian folk music. Last year there was the Hubro record Avant Folk (I think we missed this one), played with a ten-piece group; now he’s here with Border Woods (HUBRO HUBROCD2613), where he’s joined by three guest players who realise his unusual compositions; among them, the percussionist and fellow Hubro star Håkon Stene, plus Emilia Amper on the nyckelharpa, an odd Swedish instrument which is a bit like a viol but you have to depress keys to operate it. So far, a non-standard array of instrumentation; this might be one of the things that gives Haltli’s music its distinctive taste. The music here, all instrumental, is mostly of a sombre tone and introverted mood, with the exception of the lively ‘Mostamagg Polska’, and Haltli’s approach to playing the accordion is quite unique; one might say a successful blend of modernism with traditional folk forms. I’m guessing as to the latter, but as to the former one can make out traces of influence from minimalism and serialism in some of these elegant, simple constructions. Impressive. (08/2019)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.