Pump up the Volume

Hild Sofie Tafjord

Norwegian Hild Sofie Tafjord, sometime member of Spunk and Zeitkratzer in a French Horn playing capacity. Previous work includes the Zeitkratzer Karlheinz Stockhausen CD I’ve reviewed for this publication previously. This CD is volume 5 of a series the label calls ‘Music for One’, i.e. solo improvisations by selected notables on their axes of choice. Thus what we get digipickled here is a short album of solo French horn improvisation, or rather, solo instrumental exploration utilising amplification, overdubs and the characteristics of recording spaces. One woman’s take on the solo possibilities of her French Horn, plus.

Some sections, or passages, are overdubbed and layered with laptop. Others are left to ferret out ways forward for themselves without any support other than long reverbs which may or may not come from the various halls in which this was recorded. A jump-cut ride around the phantasmal plumbing of the horn. The microscopic tobogganing through a brass Helter Skelter bringing to mind the titles of Italo Disco act The Creatures’ PPG Wave opus ‘The Amazing Run in the Tube’, or indeed, popular documentaries Fantastic Voyage, the related Innerspace (starring Dennis Quaid) and Cool Runnings. Although Norway probably always had a bobsled team.

We burrow through the tracks, starting with the longest at 15 minutes and 34 seconds, tellingly entitled ‘Wormhole’, with the logic of the linear improvisation through occasional distinguishable notes, to inner views of breath rushing through tunnels to booming amplified exhalations. The familiar peal of the horn surfaces furtively only to be stuffed back into the bell like a choked off William Tell (overture), held (Hild?) tones dive back into macro-focus lip-smacking fillips. Contrasting the tight-focus sections multiplication through overdubbing is used to expand the one-track (or tube) mind, without ever losing the Dr. David Bowman forward motion.

By the third track, ‘Tokkotoko’, we splashdown in U-bend of boiling saliva. The gusto and drooly attack of this angry pot of porridge render it an enjoyable moment, for me.

Looping undulating line of intertwining pitches with peripheral, breath-derived, percussive puffs then guide us through a Shoal darting in this clear, fluidy pool before ‘Breathing’ hisses out the final moments of the album with some exhalations.

Showcasing the rarefied and attenuated strangulations you might expect of a solo brass performance, alongside some layering you may not have, everything is approached with sufficient vitality and personality – the breath might help with that impression – so why not squeeze along with Hild Sofie through these brass passages for some alternatively stern and not-so-stern enjoyments? Watch out for the spit, and at a non-too-bloated 34 minutes we’re thoughtfully left with enough time and energy to start to review another album before the plumber turns up.

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