Posts Tagged ‘Jenny Hval’

Aurora – ACD5084

Christopher Nosnibor

The cover suggests a blinding trip of an album, the sonic equivalent of an immense op-art extravaganza. Ensemble neoN, a collective of twelve Oslo-based musicians present on their debut release performances of compositions by an array of luminaries in the experimental / avant-garde music world, chosen for the uncompromising and original nature of their work. And while the collective’s objective is to ‘initiate, produce and perform music that reflects current trends in music and other art forms’, and to do so with a spirit of youthful conventionalism, they’ve set themselves well beyond the mainstream as far as fashion goes, and have produced an album that shows a lot more restraint than the lurid dayglow Digipak would imply.

Their rendition of Kristine Tjøgersen’s ‘Travelling Light’ heralds the ensemble’s arrival in bold fashion, and sets the tone, manifesting as an energetic sonic excursion that grabs the attention and holds it in a firm grip. Twangs and pings whip into space like a squash ball pelting into zero-gravity while long, quavering drones rise and decay.

There’s a keen element of playfulness which runs through Jan Martin Smørdal’s experimental composition ‘My Favourite Thing’, which toys with the tropes of orchestral soundtrack pieces with an avant-garde bent. Clamouring strings and creeping fear chords meet with marching drums and

The choice of ‘Monocots’ by Oren Ambarchi and James Rushford as the album’s centrepoint is well-conceived: the rippling acoustic guitar hangs in a fuzzy mist while a minuscule sound, like the trickle of water, continues to run through the silent sections.

Alvin Lucier’s epic ‘Two Circles’ is an exercise in uncomfortable droning minimalism. It doesn’t do much, and nor is it required to do so. Instead, it highlights the multi-faceted nature of the ensemble’s playing skills, and taken collectively, these five pieces are well-considered and well-executed. And the liner notes by Jenny Hval make for a nice bonus, too.



Ensemble neoN

Hubro – HUBROCD2578 – 7th October 2016

Those who have heard Kim Myhr’s 2014 album All Your Limbs Singing (or his collaboration with Jenny Hval and the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra) will find Bloom a rather different proposition. In place of 12-string explorations which sit between American folk and 60s avant-garde, electric guitar and electronics fuse to create something quite intriguing. There are lengthy passages which sound like formless noodling, a single chord strummed and subject to tonal variations, running through permutations of effects on a pedal board to achieve different equalisation, gain, overdrive. But while the five tracks on Bloom are clearly of an experimental and seemingly improvisational bent, there are definite structures and a sense of composition, with washes of electronic sound and layers building over one another.

‘O Horizon’ turns the focus toward rhythm, while also building ambience through long, hovering guitar sustain. The one thing Myhr does not do frequently is play the guitar conventionally: he does, however, demonstrate just how massively versatile the guitar is as an instrument. Where he does strum, as he does with a clean tone on ‘Swales Fell’, uses a zither to achieves a sound somewhere between a harp and a sitar, the notes tumbling and fluttering in gentle cascades. The scratchy tonalities and rich textures which emerge through the shimmering summery shades of ‘Milk Run Sky’ create a balance and contrast. It’s on this final track that Myhr plays most conventionally, but still filtered through a psychedelic, kaleidoscopic prism.

Bloom is a rare beast, in that it’s an album which is very much about technique, and about the effects and sounds that exploratory techniques can create. But at no point does Myhr become excessively self-focused or lose the listener.