Tagged: Norway

Yaschichek, Little Box

Herewith four more cassettes from the Russian Spina!Rec label. Arrived here 20th December 2016.

Andrey Popovskiy is the St Petersburg composer whose work has been arriving here since 2014. If there’s any connection between his releases Rotonda and Kryukov, it might have something to do with the way sound behaves in an enclosed space, and the exigencies of recording devices in attempting to capture the elusive reality of acoustical behaviours. While Rotonda seemed to misfire for Jack Tatty, we liked the mysterious properties of Kryukov (his split tape with Dubcore) and the way it somehow summoned an aesthetically pleasing effect from such everyday banality. Even to call Popovskiy a “kitchen sink” composer would be to make it far too exotic; he’d be happy to occupy the cupboard under the sink, along with the cartons of bleach. Works For Voice Recorders 2011 (SR029) takes this pared-down approach to an even further extreme. On the A side, there are five short pieces documenting his experiments with voice recording devices (dictaphones, perhaps? If those things even exist any more), placed inside a room and capturing whatever external bumps and groans may come their way. There’s also something about the devices being used to record themselves – contact mics placed in their own innards, or something. All manner of recorded artefacts are generated in a refreshingly non-digital manner. I can’t account for why this unprepossessing, near-blank grind effect is so compelling, but I can’t stop listening to it.

On the flip is a long piece called Zvukovanie, and is a far more ambitious composition lasting some 34 mins. He’s created layers of sound from field recordings out in the streets, musical performances, and rehearsals, superimposing them into what is described as a “three-dimensional” piece. Percussionist Mikhail Kuleshin and improvising trumpeter Vyacheslav Guyvoronsky join him in this task. While this might seem a recipe for chaos, in Popovskiy’s hands it results in a very pleasing jumble of balmy strangeness, drifting and shifting in unexpected ways. The listener is not being “directed” to pay attention to any one element, and instead is free to wander in an open landscape of sound events, much like an exotic street bazaar, and picking up what trinkets they may. Delightful.

SR027 is a split. The side by Andrey Svibovitch did little for me; very ordinary sounds emerge from his synths (probably due to use of over-familiar filters or pre-set sounds) and he has a simplistic approach to playing chords, both of which point to under-developed techniques. He produces a stream of undemanding electronica with little structure or originality. The four parts of “What Hides The Voice” were originally presented as part of a multi-media installation with the work of visual artist Maxim Svishev. Svibovitch creates his music using voice samples, yet what ends up on the tape is so synthetic and processed it seems to have zero connection to anything as natural and human as a voice.

The side by Sergey Vandyshev is more engaging. The electronic music of this fellow is described as an experiment in “pure data”, and there are references to “digital generators” and “granular synthesis algorithms”…most of this is beyond my ken, but it seems to point to a process-based approach where machines do most of the work, but also indicates that Vandyshev is a skilled manipulator of digital data, perhaps doing it “at source” in some way. What I mean by that is he may bypass the conventional routes of feeding information through pre-sets and filters. Anyone who can run an algorithm at granular synthesis level is capable of anything. The sound of his untitled tracks is certainly quite clean, and feels uncluttered by unnecessary elaborations. I also like the loops, repetitions and insistent pulsations, which are set forth in a very porous, open-ended manner, as if he’s found a way to avoid the trap of the strict grid-systems imposed by digital sequencers. This reminds me very much of a more low-key version of Pimmon.

SR028 is a split. For this release we have a rare (for this label) instance of acoustic music played on musical instruments – as opposed to their standard electronic fare. Blank Disc Trio are a Serbian group of improvisers who have been at it since the late 1990s. It used by a duo of the core members Srdjan Muc and Robert Roža (guitar and electronics, respectively), but have since been joined by Georg Wissel, who puffs a “prepared” alto saxophone. For this tape, they were joined by the pianist Dušica Cajlan-Wissel and the electric guitarist Julien Baillod. What they play is a rather tentative version of the “electro-acoustic improv” thing, a form which in their hands takes a long time to get started and is littered with many half-baked stabs and much guesswork along the way. I like the abrasive textures they manage to summon up, and it’s good that they know when to shut up and leave gaps for each other, but overall there isn’t enough coherence or continuity in these wispy musical ideas to sustain my interest.

On the flipside we have Ex You, another three-piece of Serbian experimenters. Milan Milojković, László Lenkes and Filip Đurović blend electronics, guitar, and drums into a pleasing scrabbly mess of non-music, keeping it fairly low-key and resisting the temptation to create a hideous energy-noise blaroon-out. The addition of guest cello player Erno Zsadányi only increases our pleasure in this grumbly, meandering groan-fest. Like their Blank Disc brothers, this group sometimes finds it hard to crank up the old motor, but once they get it turning over we’re guaranteed a much more exciting drive through the old Serbian mountain tracks. I wish more drummers could act with the restraint and decency of Đurović; he doesn’t call attention to himself with fills and ornament, but his steady gentle pulsations give a surprisingly sturdy backbone to this music. Two members of the trio also play in Lenhart Tapes Orchestra, should you feel curious to investigate the Serbian “scene” further; their 2014 album Uživo Sa Karnevala Glavobolje looks like the one to go for.

The tape Povstrechal Gaute Granli (SR030) is a team-up between Mars-69 and Gaute Granli, another one of the Russian-Norway “hands across the water” affairs which this label does so well. Mars-69 are I assume Mars-96 with a slight change to the name – at any rate the core members of this Palmira trio appear to be intact. They’re about the most prolific bunch on the Spina!Rec label and we’ve enjoyed most of their disaffected noisy work. I always thought they were a guitar-bass-drums trio but here they’re spinning their craft with synths, syn-drums, and vocals. As for Gaute Granli, we’ve been enjoying the solo work and group work (in Freddy The Dyke) of this Norwegian loon for many years now, and can recommend anything he’s done for the Drid Machine and Skussmaal labels. He brought his electric guitar and voice to these Povstrechal sessions. With a line-up like that, I feel I have a right to expect some serious fireworks, which is why I felt gypped by this damp squib. With the possible exception of ‘Osa’, the opening track, the tape is a lacklustre set of pointless studio noodling, half-formed ideas trailing away, and occasional absurdist vocal dribble. One waits in vain for a single idea to catch fire or take off into the stratosphere. The band had a lot of sociable fun on the day (hint: that’s code for they all got drunk) – the press write-up seems to indicate as much – but that doesn’t justify the release of this self-indulgent nonsense.

Ame Hinode

The Kyūbi (NAKAMA RECORDS NKM005CD) record is by Jinchūriki, a duo of Norwegian violinists Håkon Aase and Adrian Løseth Waade. You may be familiar with them through their other group Filosofer, and Waade plays in the quintet Nakama as well as the much larger improvising group Skadedyr (noted previously for their record with the big crab on the cover). Kyūbi is an understated and largely quiet acoustic record, with 20 short tracks – it’s a bit of extra work to get onto its wavelength, as the musical statements are so brief that they pass by before you even start to pick up the vibe of where these two mysterious Norwegians might be coming from. But there are interesting details and textures hidden inside these concise, blank utterances, and it’s worth persevering for the moments when they get quite worked up, packing a large volume of frenetic plucks and abstracted notes into quite small spaces.

They also like to limn imaginary snowy landscapes, using creaky scrapes and long tones from their wooden devices and strings. The aim of these musicians is something to do with exploring limits – of their instruments, of their sound, of themselves; cheap kamagra oral jelly online perhaps they have in mind the musical equivalent of a commando weekend where you’re dropped onto a cold moor wearing only a vest and pants. It’s to their credit that they keep these observations so brief; the average innings here is less than two minutes, and their best pieces zip by in about 40 seconds or less. I think if they stretched into the 7 minute zone, a practice which by the way seems to be de rigeur for many improvising combos, they might turn into flabby, boring drones. However, brevity doesn’t always equal profundity, and some of these tunes can seem inconclusive; but at their best, Jinchūriki pose acoustic riddles which you can puzzle over for hours.

The cover image, also by Håkon Aase, seems to suggest a volcano emitting a fiery plume and much smoke, but a volcano is the last thing on the listener’s mind when faced with these gentle and rather cold musical miniatures. The names Jinchūriki and Kyūbi apparently both come from a 1990s manga and anime series called Naruto, which tells the story of a disaffected teenage ninja warrior. From 26th September 2016.

Rooms For Improvement

Ingar Zach
Le Stanze
NORWAY SOFA MUSIC SOFA552 CD (2016)

A new name for me, but tucked beneath the surface of several SP reviews is Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach: an active figure on the European free music scene, though perhaps more at home among the contemplative Hubro school than vikings like Lasse Marhaug. He even racked up a couple of Derek Bailey collaborations in the early noughties, which is hardly anyone’s front page news I imagine, though it is his improvisor status that surprises most: a couple of listens into Le Stanze and I had him down as a considered, post-classical composer, not someone with a couple of Derek Bailey collaborations under their belt.

The truth lies somewhere between. The post-Gruppo d’improvvisazione(…) slither n’ scrape shenanigans that open Le Stanze maintain a haunting presence throughout, serving as a ‘spontaneous’, space-carving foil for the more ‘constructed’ sections in which percussion and electronics respectively stimulate and depress the music’s blood-flow. Perfect case in point is the galloping fit of percussion that drives halfway through ‘Il Battito Del Vichingo’: a skin-tingling, almost mechanical alignment of racing kickdrum and metallic shower that blows away the blues brought on by the dour intro, but which obligingly returns to the same after some low flying electronics have passed by. This sudden snap back to listlessness is mystifying, but we are compensated with a ‘Teo Macero moment’ beforehand, when the pounding rhythm is yanked from beneath the aviationary drone, briefly leaving us airborne.

Such dynamic extremes are representative of the varied compositional approaches brought to bear on the tools at hand, and of the potential ambivalence experienced in their alternation. For instance, while the chilling pulsations of ‘L’inno Dell’ Oscurità’ gradually acquire an arresting, almost coital momentum over the minutes, the closer – ‘È Solitudine’ – is more evidently an exploratory process; applying what sounds like an electric motor to various resonant surfaces and monitoring the resulting tonality. Neither Merzbow nor Dumitrescu, this voice of the concealed realms is by no means dull (and might even prompt a nervous jerk or two from the listener), but in isolation its purpose is less easily justified than that of certain earlier sections. Which hints at an opportunity missed: to blend the disparate and to promote cohesion between unpartitioned forces. As improvisation, this is fascinating. As composition, baffling. As hybrid, difficult to place.

Light in the Sky

Here’s another solo cassette by Alwanzatar, Oslo’s one-man version of Gong, whom we last heard in May 2016 and his tape Archaic Mysteries Of Ecstasy. Where that release featured a lot of ritualistic mystery chants and strange archaic vocalisms, Live Ritual Proceedings Vol. III (UNDERJORDISKOTEKET UJD 005) is more musical and showcases his skills on a range of droning synthesisers. Among these are vintage instruments such as the Arp Odyssey, the Moog Minitaur, and the Korg SQ-1, fit to make any collector of retro keyboards fall to their knees in envy. Alwanzatar however doesn’t neglect the drum machine, and his approach to cosmic space drone is enabled considerably by the mesmerising rhythm patterns which he programmes into each performance. Accordingly, both these side-long performances from 2015 are compelling and enjoyable voyages into outer galaxies; where Hawkwind would have travelled to the same places in a huge inter-galactic cruiser with 18 stories and thousands of passengers on board, Alwanzatar gets there in his personal flying flivver powered by a single motor, enjoying the views of astral splendour outside his perspex dome. Even the cover art with its simple drawing and hand-lettering attests to this creator’s modest ambitions. While this may not be essential listening, I like the simplicity and directness of Krizla’s music; the sounds are good, there’s a clarity to the performance and its intention, and he remains dedicated to completing the task, no matter how long it takes. There’s also a strong sense of optimism and positive vibes from these cosmic drones. Very good. From 19th August 2016.

Thou shalt like an airy spirit go

Another release from the Norwegian label 2L (Lindberg Lyd) again spares no expense in bringing us the work printed on a Blu-Ray disc and an SACD in a single package. This time it’s a new work by Maja S.K. Ratkje, our favourite Norwegian genius all-rounder, who has now set herself the challenge of composing new music that showcases her own voice, as as she puts it “include my sound as a voice performer”. In case you need reminding about her skills in this area, we have noted a few examples of her astonishing work as part of the all-female group Spunk, for instance on Das Wohltemperierte Spunk, Adventura Botanica and Live In Molde, not to mention her work with Slugfield, and on Treasure Hunt…but it’s one thing to do the voice extemporising thing in a free-improvisation context. Today’s record, And Sing…(2L-124-SABD), shows the possibilities afforded by performing with the Oslo Sinfonietta and with CIKADA, an Oslo-based ten piece chamber ensemble led by Christian Eggen.

The second piece on the disc, Concerto For Voice (Moods IIIb) has its origins in an earlier piece from 2004, in fact her first composition for working with a large ensemble and pitching her voice against it. This was commissioned by Radio France; she solved one basic problem by amplifying her voice, so it could be heard over the orchestra. But it also allowed to play with the differences between acoustic and amplified music; if she could make her own whispering be heard against the sound of a loud orchestra, it might go some way to “explore the mismatch between what one saw and what one heard”. Ratkje revisits the piece for this recording; she tells us about the elements that form the composition, which include “spectral chords”, which she arrived at by analysing the sound of a tenor saxophone; and a motif based on certain common frequencies found in multiphonics. On top of this “harmonic backdrop”, we have orchestral noise and percussion doing its best to interfere with the smooth progress of the piece, and introducing rhythmic patterns.

This dry description tends to confirm that Ratkje sees composition as a way of handling forms and putting elements in the right place. What’s interesting to me here is that she would say she’s doing traditional composition, following the “orthodox form” for a voice concerto which simply pitches a soloist against an orchestra. It doesn’t quite prepare you for the wild and eerie sound of Concerto For Voice (Moods IIIb), whose dynamics are extreme and whose contents are explosive; the orchestra sways and flies around like a gigantic atonal beast, an ancient sailing ship fully-rigged with a cargo of unknown dimensions. Maja’s contributions to the controlled storm consist of strangled gibberish and throatal squawks…unbearably high-pitched squeaks and howls…and sometimes more contemplative murmurs, introverted sighs, and wordless expressions of emotion. To round it all off is the sound of a typewriter being used on stage as a percussion instrument, clacking in at certain quieter moments. But also it’s used with the express intention to say something about the human voice itself; she sees that typewriter as her “sidekick”. What does that mean? Perhaps she’s inviting us to read its mechanical chatter as a form of speech. Or a machine producing letters and words, that are on the way to being vocalised.

It really is an astonishing combination, both as a technical tour de force (her impeccable vocal skills) and as an intense musical experience, which at times borders on the terrifying. I have the impression that Stockhausen, himself no stranger to using voices and choral music, would have given his right arm to arrive at such a successful formalised expression of ideas as this. He could have got there, but it would have been a lot of hard work on his part, writing, composing, thinking. I don’t know much about Ratkje’s working methods, but this music feels natural, unforced; I’d like to think it comes to her quite easily.

The disc contains another long piece “And sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep”, a detailed analysis of which defeats me at the moment. My superficial impression is that it’s no less complex and demanding than the above, and it seems bent on slowly winding up tension in the listener to boiling point. All I’ve gleaned from the notes is that the voice element is done by loudspeaker playback (Maja herself was not present) and that the title comes from Shakespeare, though that may not be important. It may seem at first glance that is music is more about form than content, but I’m not sure that’s the case; I think meaning, emotion, and depth just pour out of Maja S.K. Ratkje, whether she’s performing or composing, but (unlike some windbag male composers of the 20th century) she just doesn’t feel the need to explain it to us in words.

As with the other 2L release, the exceptional quality in the sound recording and playback is well worth your attention, and hopefully may set a new benchmark for the recording and pressing of classical music releases. From 8th August 2016.

Till We Have Faces

The Norwegian Ensemble Song Circus are a seven-piece of vocalists, led by their artistic director Liv Runesdatter. Their Anatomy Of Sound project appears to be an ongoing thing for the years 2014-2018, and involves working with a number of modern composers…they’re trying to get into “the very microlevels of sound anatomy”, as they would say, which involves working away at microtones with their voices, exploring certain acoustic spaces, and the timbral qualities of certain objects. On the particular release we have before us (2L RECORDS 2L-117-SABD), they perform a 12-part suite called Landscape With Figures, composed by Ruben Sverre Gjertsen, a contemporary Norwegian composer. There’s a longer 70-minute version which involves and orchestra and live electronics, but this is the 44-minute version for vocalists with live electronics, a work whose full realisation involves a complicated set-up in the performance arena, where the vocalists and other musicians are positioned in the audience, and careful microphone placement is needed along with a large loudspeaker for acousmatic playback. Clearly this “Landscape” is very much about “spatial awareness” in a big way, which may be one reason why it appeals to the members of Song Circus. This may also account for why the record has been released on a Blu-Ray disc and an SACD on this package. The former probably allows 5.0 surround-sound playback for those who have the right set-up at home (I don’t, sadly), and permits a truly immersive experience. Even so, the sound on the normal CD is pristine and sharp to an extremely high degree. Gjertsen has studied the work Trevor Wishart and Brian Ferneyhough, and absorbed their ideas about “systems of notation and composition”.

Buried somewhere at the heart of these whispering voices and atonal vocal acrobatics, there may be some textual material derived from the work of James Joyce. It’s hard to make it out though, and it may also be mixed up with other texts from Demian Vitanza, the Norwegian novelist. While there’s a nice set of anagrams using the words “Finnegans Wake” printed in the booklet, I’m not sure is this is anything more than an addendum. James Joyce’s words and ideas buy kamagra online with paypal have been used in avant-garde music for some time now, most famously perhaps by Luciano Berio for his Ommagio A Joyce, composed in the late 1950s, and there’s also John Cage’s Roaratorio from 1979. I’d like to say Landscape With Figures is a worthy addition to the canon, but it doesn’t really succeed when measured up against either of those two predecessors, or against the work of Joyce itself. However, representing Joyce may not be the central aim of Gjertsen, and the cumulative effect of these mysterious fragmented voice murmurs and splintered electronic sound is quite pleasing. However, it also feels oddly old-fashioned; this could easily have been released in the mid-1960s on the Music Of Our Time series.

The second work on the disc is Persefone, composed by Ole-Henrik Moe, another Norwegian modernist who is also a classically trained violinist. This work calls for five female voices, who also lay “an orchestra of wine glasses” – the so-called “glass harmonica” that can produce pleasing high-pitched continual sounds. The Persephone of classical mythology was, among other things, the queen of the Underworld – a notion that is most likely to have preoccupied the mind of Moe when he created this slow micro-tonal work. Landscape With Figures sounds positively bustling with activity compared with this largely static set of haunting, abstract murmurs and howls. The voice of Persephone is a many-layered beast, like that of a thousand owls and sad lonely wolves.

Throughout both pieces, Song Circus perform flawlessly. In fact their performances are almost inhuman in their clinical perfection, and if we add the super-human clarity of these recordings and the very alien, abstract nature of the music, I sometimes wonder what there is left for us to enjoy. Somehow there is a certain pleasure to be found in the coldness of this work, and the remorseless way the music is executed, which may not be anything like what Liv Runesdatter and her crew intend. I think the faceless woman on the front cover is very telling, a visual index of the near-anonymous music inside. From 8th August 2016.

Red Giant

Fine instrumental music from Møster! on their album When You Cut Into The Present (HUBRO MUSIC HUBROCD2565), where Kjetil Møster and his men turn in five lively performances with a rock set-up that’s a framework for Kjetil’s sax melodies and the guitar efforts of Hans Magnus Ryan. Last noted this band for their 2014 album Inner Earth, where Steve Hanson responded warmly to their “heavy prog” vibe. I would concur…in places we can find traces of “jazziness” in their playing, and it’s not just because of the agitated sax blowing, but the fact that they don’t follow conventional verse-chorus structures or time signatures, and instead tend to keep blurting it out for eight or nine minutes at a time, in a sprawling jam-session style, provided we can use that phrase without any suggestion that this is flabby, self-indulgent or shapeless music. Rather, Møster! are as taut as a spelunker’s climbing rope (I’m using imagery suggested by the front cover, and I just hope they actually go cave exploring on weekends, thus validating my speculation) and punch their messages home with close attention to dynamics, energy, and concision. Come to think of it, their drummer Kenneth Kapstad may be one of the more important members in that regard. Whereas a lot of Hubro records tend to be a little too pleasant and countrified for me, this album delivers a strong avant-rocky punch to the bread-basket. The album title is derived from a William Burroughs quote, which is in fact completed by one of the track titles here, but it looks as though that’s about as this band goes as regards flirting with underground culture or experimenting with cut-ups. From 12 July 2016.

Hvilken vei er ingen steder (del 3)

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Ivar Grydeland
Stop Freeze Wait Eat
NORWAY HUBRO MUSIC HUBRO 3538 LP (2015)

Enveloped in warm and fuzzy nocturne is this serene yet sturdy surprise from the ever-reliable Hubro label, nestling within which we find the laconic Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, one Ivar Grydeland – member of improvising trio Huntsville (previously reviewed here) – and his 6 and 12 string guitars, drowsily picking and tapping out morse code m’aiders in honeyed droplets to the sound of soporific alarm bells. However, the draping of every long tone in echo serves more than simply a sedative function; it is Grydeland’s ‘extended now’ that allows him to improvise atop the sounds of his own playing in a window of time that he likens to a painter’s stepping back from the canvas to regard the work underway. Meanwhile the listener is free to sink deep into a crackly dream world of pin-pricked, low-frequency harmonics; a less focused take on Oren Ambarchi’s soundworld, but a cosy blanketing that never smothers.

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Trondheim Jazz Orchestra / Christian Wallumrød
Untitled Arpeggios And Pulses
NORWAY HUBRO MUSIC HUBRO HUBROCD2566 (2015)

Our first (and last) encounter with the Norwegian ‘jazz’ pianist Christian Wallumrød was bemusing to say the least, an effect partly brought about by the connotations of using the j-word, by Wallumrød’s history with the ECM label and by that record’s unfailing ambiguity of style and intention. Intriguing to a fault, Pianokammer defies the finger of categorisation, falling somewhere ’between the realms of easy listening and cold abstraction’, to the point at which questions such as ‘do I like this?’ become redundant. Whatever motivations led to the recording of that strange selection, they remain invisible to the naked ear.

Its successor – Untitled Arpeggios and Pulses – arrives in a similar cloak of cool mystery and a title suggestive of the anonymity and simplicity of its ethereal ways. Carried by The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra as a commission for Kongsberg Jazz Festival’s 50th anniversary in 2014, the ‘action’ has moved from the fire-lit living room in winter to the chilled auditorium where quiet coughs mingle with the steam of musicians’ breath. Suspended in air, rendered sluggish by hibernation instincts or lurching like locked groove vinyl, the four sections of this 50+ minute composition consist of short, semi- and atonal phrases repeated ad infinitum by small and unusual instrumental assortments that include piano and pedal steel peddling peace and forgetfulness (part 2), to a trudging, trash-coated behemoth for graunching guitar, Supersilent-style electronics and jubilant bursts of winter-numbed brass.

Clearly intended for a single sitting: walk in at any moment to find an absolute mess. Sit back however, and enjoy the unfurling from afar and things might start to click into place. Devoid of straight up ‘jazz’, the orchestra’s dedicated pursuit of the ‘pulse’ overrides all other aesthetic commitments. It’s challenging music in the best possible sense, and best of all, it knows when to keep its mouth shut.

Europasanones

gaute

One of our favourite Norwegian noise-men is Gaute Granli, who is one half of Freddy The Dyke and who we last noted with his zany solo cassette Velkommen Til Forus on the Skussmaal label. What we like is his sense of fun. He sets about making strange sounds with a lack of inhibition, acting almost child-like and innocent in the best sense. For Ingen Pottetsekk Whatsoever (SKUSSMAAL SKUMC02), he decided he wanted some physical product to sell before he went on tour in South-East Asia (as is well known, Indonesia and Thailand boast the largest fan-base for crazy Norwegian noise of anywhere in the world), and so he assembled choice cuts from some of his nuttiest studio recordings made in 2014. Granli works with percussion, synths, and guitars, treating each instrument as a new toy in the toybox, and occasionally adding absurd vocal wails to the playful bric-a-brac.

The inventiveness he exhibits here is easily on a par with, say, Jad Fair when he made solo records like Great Expectations and Best Wishes in the 1980s, flailing and rampaging around the studio with no obvious plan in mind. However, Granli is not playing around with varispeed or processing or effects, but rather trying out instrumental ideas, combinations, notions and games. Even if these musical doodles lead nowhere, as I must admit they often do, he’s having a whale of a time while the magic marker is in his hand. No blank wall is safe from his childish scribbles. The results this time around are also surprisingly minimal, such that we only hear two or three instruments at once, uttering scant and picayune phrases, and their bizarre attenuated sounds are combined in stark, angular pairings. None of the manic punky energy of Freddy The Dyke here, either; in fact the whole tape is largely mysterious and sombre in tone, abstract wonderings in an empty darkened cathedral, especially with the dirge-like ‘Choral Supreme’. From 10 April 2015.

Circumstantial Evidence

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On their Angående Omstendigheter Som Ikke Lar Seg Nedtegne (HUBRO MUSIC HUBRODCD2547) Monkey Plot produce acoustic music on stringed instruments and percussion which might reside somewhere in the area of free improvisation, but these young Norwegians are certainly determined to find their way into a niche or zone that’s all their own. One word that springs to mind when listening to their wiry, bare abstractions is “tentative”, as they hesitantly push at doors or explore hidden pathways in the gigantic multi-levelled Playstation game that is modern music. None of them are quite sure if success is guaranteed, or if the chosen road will lead anywhere before petering out.

Their 12 forays, recorded at Numin in 2014, amount to an interesting body of research as they continue to map out this turf, even if the essays are disjointed, only half-completed and poorly-annotated. Since Monkey Plot appear to have begun life as an electric guitar trio with Hendrix-based aspirations, the all-acoustic recordings here are a clear indication of their growth. The guitarist Christian Winther’s broken statements are especially craggy, but drummer Jan Martin Gismervik does a lot to supply equally fragmentary textures to the plan. Only bass player Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard is doing anything remotely familiar in terms of supplying structure or rhythmic patterns to these rickety flyaway tunes, but even he can’t resist adding a little bit of string rubbing for extra roughage.

This is their second LP after one for the Gigafon label which was recorded in Frode Gjerstad’s living room in 2014. They had cause to celebrate that year when they won the Young Norwegian Jazz Musicians of the Year award and a grant from Gramo. They spent it all building the hut in the woods you can see on the front cover, where they now live permanently, beset by Norwegian bears and giraffes from Madagascar. From 2nd June 2015.