The Last Syllable of Recorded Time

Norwegian acoustic music on Wordless Voices (KAMO RECORDS KAMO004), performed by Mat Maneri and Kalle Moberg.

Accordian player Moberg came our way in 2020 with his debut album The Tokyo Sessions Volume 1: Unheard-of, when we learned about his classical background but also his free jazz leanings (Paal Nilssen-Love took him on tour). Tokyo was impressive stuff, but also rather flamboyant in places, as if he couldn’t wait to show us all the tricks of his very unorthodox squeeze-box style. He’s evidently reined himself in somewhat for this session, recorded at a music festival in Texas in 2020, and most of the playing here exhibits a rather dour tone, the tunes proceeding at a slow and halting rate. It’s also much simpler, both players leaving plenty of space and air for each other, and notes are left hanging in the air as they cast their mysterious riddles and cryptic observations about the human condition.

The American player Mat Maneri is a new name to me, but I see he’s been active for over 20 years and is highly regarded in the fields of composition, jazz, and improvisation; the press notes refer to him as a “microtonal maestro”, and there’s plenty of evidence of that skillset in the grooves here. Anything “microtonal” tends to get my vote if there’s a lineage I can trace back to my beloved Ligeti and his 1960s scores. Maneri seems to be less keen on stylistic flourishes, more about holding steady to the notes in the manner of an unperturbed sea captain; it’s our Norwegian friend who enjoys producing a very unusual, slightly queasy, sound on his instrument, and occasionally indulging in crazy runs of notes (especially on ‘Furtive Notes’) as if he dreamed of being the Archie Shepp of the accordion.

The main event here is the 28:48 minute ‘Trialogue’, where the duo are joined by Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, another soldier from the Nilssen-Love ranks, who happens to be living in Texas just now. Flaten has performed in Nordic “energy jazz” combos such as The Thing (one of many contemporary bands who cross jazz with rock music), and in his allotted space on the stage here he takes the opportunity to liven up the music with percussive stabs, fast strums, and a fairly manic streak. On the other hand, he’s also good with gloomy lower-register sighs and drawn-out notes, so certain passages of this long track do settle back into the odd, non-conforming minimal shapes which we enjoyed on the first three cuts. Of all the cuts on Wordless Voices, this ‘Trialogue’ does indeed deliver on the promise of “microtonality, pulse, melody and noise” all combined in one interwove, layered, lively package of playing.

The cover artworks are drawn by Lucia Aragon, vigorous coiled penstrokes which take tremendous liberties with the human anatomy and physiognomy, conveying a real sense of visceral urgency. From 19th July 2021.