Gyda Valtysdottir - Epicycle II
Magic from Iceland
Gyda Valtysdottir is an extremely productive Icelandic musician. She started the band Múm in the late 90's, a band that has made characterful music influenced by electronica. And at the same time she has a classical education as a cellist from Reykjavik. A very interresting mix.
In 2016, she made an extremely strong album called Epicycle. At that album she made her own characterful interpretations of older compositions, interpretations with a very modern expression. On the following Epicycle II, she found that she wanted to do something similar, but with living composers. And she found Icelandic composers in her local area and circle of acquaintances, and who had meant something to her own personal musical development. And these composers are:
- Skúli Sverrisson - Unfold
- Ólöf Arnalds - Safe to Love
- Anna Þorvaldsdóttir - Mikros
- Úlfur Hansson - Morphogenesis
- Kjartan Sveinsson - Liquidity
- Daníel Bjarnason - Air to Breath
- Jónsi - Evol Lamina
- María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir - Ocio
The result has been extremely strong and fascinating music. And it is difficult not to highlight the opening composition Unfold , which is composed by Skúli Sverrisson, and has an upward musical envelope. And it is just as difficult to ignore the next composition Safe to Love, which is written by a youth acquaintance of Gyda. And this is the first track where Gyda exposes her second great talent in addition to being a cellist, as she is on all the compositions. She has a magical vocal, and unless I am very wrong, this is the same vocal that is exposed on some of the songs of her youth project Múm. And it is very tempting to assume that Bjørk has been a source of inspiration in the development of this vocal character. We find something of the same nerve in the vocals as in Bjørk.
Now I have highlighted two tracks as unique, but really all the compositions and interpretations have an approximately equal superb quality and musical magic. This is music that is backwards and has long lines, often filled with a lot of reverberation, but it is never over the edge. The musical genre is, as so often otherwise, difficult to put in a box, but if you imagine a landscape on the borderland between contemporary classical, quiet jazz and indie, it starts to look a bit like. But we are probably, after all, most of all at easily accessible contemporary music
The album is released on the American label Sono Luminus in collaboration with Diamond. And Sono Luminus is a label that excelled with a lot of exciting music, including from works by musicians from Iceland. But they have also excelled with particularly good sound. They had a lot of great multi-channel releases on Blu-Ray for a while, but it seems that this format is now a thing of the past.
Epicycle II is an album you must not miss to get acquainted with, especially if you appreciate music that explores new terrain while exposing beautiful musical lines and great sound. The title as the album of the week is inevitable, despite the fact that I wish the lyrics were more readable on the otherwise magnificent CD cover.
Read more about Epicycle II at Sono Luminus
I.P.A – Bashing Mushrooms
Exciting Scandinavian jazz with roots
The jazz band IPA started 12 years ago as a project that would immerse itself in the music of Don Cherry. It started in 2008 with saxophonist and bass clarinetist Atle Nymo, the Swedish trumpeter Magnus Broo, bassist Ingebrikt Håker Flaten and drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen. In 2013, the Swedish vibraphonist Mattias Ståhl joined the band, and that became the quintet they are today.
The musical direction has evolved over time, and as a small exception for jazz releases I have written about lately, this is pure jazz that is quite far away from adjacent musical directions. There is also a not insignificant musical range in Bashing Mushrooms, and that may be partly due to the fact that three of the musicians are responsible for the compositions here. But this range does not prevent a good musical consistency throughout the album.
On Atle Nymo's compositions I am involuntarily drawn a bit in the direction of the soundscapes and musicals Miles Davis '"Second Great Quintet" was working on in its later phase, in 1968, just before Miles Davis' fellow players were about to be electrified. and partially replaced. And then it was primarily Wayne Shorter who dominated compositions, but of course Miles was a dominant musician. And the musical reasoning that was created in 68 has some similarities with what I hear on this album. Perhaps most clearly on the opening track Kudeta , but also on Grandma I occasionally get some of the same associations.
The title track Bashing Mushrooms is written by Magnus Broo, and here it is a fascinatingly hefty Bee-Bop-inspired opening. The latest of Broo's compositions Fem Skator also has an intense and Bop-inspired character.
Mattias Ståhl is the third contributor to compositions. The opening track on page B on the LP has been named Go Greta , and is an instrumental tribute to Greta Thunberg. And also this one has an obvious bop influence in modern clothing.
Bashing Mushrooms is released on LP, CD and as a digital release on Cuneiform Records. This is IPA's second release on this label, after I Just Did Say Something was released in 2016. I have listened to both the LP and the digital release, and both have great, open and dynamic sound reproduction as well as sparkling and innovative musical performances helps me pull out the six on the dice for Bashing Mushrooms.
Read more about Bashing Mushrooms at Cuneiform Records
Marianne Baudouin Lie - Atlantis, Utopia & Wolf Dreams
Norwegian innovative cello music
Marianne Baudouin Lie is a cellist living in Trondheim, and has an extremely rich discography on her conscience. And the musical background consists of both collaborations with modern ensembles, such as the Alpacsa Ensemble and Trondheim Sinfonietta, and more traditional ensembles such as the Trondheim Soloists. In addition to a career and activity as a cellist, Marianne Baudouin Lie is also a researcher and lecturer at NTNU in Trondheim. She took her PhD in 2018, with the project Making Sense .
The recent release Atlantis is a double CD called Atlantis, Utopia & Wolf Dreams. And to be more precise, CD 1 is titled Atlantis, Utopia, while CD 2 is titled Ulvedrømmer (Wolf Dreams). It is in itself a somewhat unusual move to separate a double album in this way, but this reflects the different compositions on the two CDs.
On CD 1 we find the works:
- Many Thousands Gone by Ellen Lindquist
- Concertino for cello and voice by Eirik Hegdal
- Atlantis Lamento by Stine Sørlie
- To F by Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje
On CD 1 we find the work:
- Ulvedrømmer, a onewomen musical by Lene Grenager
The music on this double CD consists of cello, sounds, song and speech. It is clearly within the genre of contemporary music, but is still within the more easily accessible part of this genre. It is a rather fascinating exploration of sounds and sound surfaces that recur in the compositions, and it is also reflected in the use of vocals. Here we occasionally get clear quotes from folk music, such as Vi har en Tulle (We have a Tulle)…, but at the same time in a completely new form that is not intended as a traditional performance of these melodic quotes, but more as a sound surface in interaction with the cello. A rather innovative and fascinating approach. Perhaps the most exciting use of vocals as a soundtrack can be found in Maja SK Ratkje's composition To F. Ratkje is known for extremely innovative use of vocals in her contemporary compositions.
Lene Grenager has for a long time had an established collaboration with Marianne Baudouin Lie. And here is CD 2 dedicated to her composition Ulvedrømmer (Wolf Dreams). This is a composition that clearly differs from the compositions on CD 1. Both in the form of clearer rhythmically emphasized music, but also in the form that the vocal elements consist of recitations. Or perhaps rather situational comments. I feel like a voice in a song is ironically also a recitation at the beginning, but gradually turns into music with sounds that give associations to what Michael Mantler and Carla Bley were doing in the late 70's.
Atlantis, Utopia & Ulvedrømmer is a very great release, both musically and when it comes to sound quality. But also the CD itself with a great trifold cover and booklet, there is every reason to highlight. It qualifies for a fiver on the dice that tends to tip over to an even higher number.
Read more about Atlantis, Utopia & Wolf Dreams at Cello.no
Ulver - Flowers of Evil
Old Wolves crossing their recent tracks
Initially, I must allow myself to mention that I have had the LP Flowers of Evil in my record collection for almost half a century. But then of course we are talking about a completely different release, the obviously best album from the soft hard-rock band Mountain. Now it is hardly this 49-year-old album that has inspired Wolves in the title choice for this 25th anniversary album, but rather the collection of poems Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire, first published in 1857 - a collection of poems that was given the characteristic "an insult to public decency ".
This characteristic will hardly be awarded to Ulver's new album - neither lyrics nor music qualify for that. The musical landscape here gives clear associations to the late 80's, often represented by Depeche Mode and Tears For fears.
But this is not the musical landscape Ulver was in from the beginning in the 90`s. They started as a band on the borderland of a Black Metal Band, interspersed with some inspiration from folk music. And genre blending has been their trademark all along, both simultaneously and over time. Throughout the period since the start in 1995 with the debut album Bergtatt, they have been associated with folk, classical, improvisation, industrial metal, prog-rock, electronics and ambient.
In 2017 the album The Assassination of Julius Caesar was released, an album that formed a new musical direction, and Flowers of Evil is easy to perceive as a further development of this direction. Frontman and vocalist Kristoffer Rygg has a very nice voice that carries Wolver elegantly into this 80s-inspired pop direction that effortlessly mingles with the previously mentioned Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears and others. With him in this edition of Ulver are Ole Alexander Halstensgård, Jørn H. Sværen and Tore Ylwizaker. In addition, there are a number of guest musicians on this release.
On a couple of the songs I also get fleeting associations to the musical ideas of Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe, who were a kind of breakaway group from Yes with most of the best Yes-musicians, with the exception of Chris Squire, and who released one single solo album in 89 before Yes was reunited. But if nothing else, these associations are stranded on the great distance between the voice of Jon Anderson and Kristoffer Rygg.
Flowers of Evil is a very well-executed album, practically without transport stages. And next to the opening track One Last Dance , it's easy to get hooked on Machine Guns and Peacock Feathers and Little Boy . My undisputed favorite songs on the album still would be Nostalgia and the low-key closing track A Thousand Cuts .
The CD contains an unusually beautiful and rich booklet. Speaking of books - Wolves has published their own book on the occasion of their 25th anniversary, a book that also may be purchased in boundle together with the CD
Read more about Flowers of Evil at Bandcamp
Lasse Passage - Sunwards
Lasse Passage is a musician who is a bit difficult to capture in an exact booth. Fortunately, some will say, and I will not oppose that idea. He has a background with an education in art music, but has also had an attraction to pop and singer / songwriter. Fortunately, it is starting to become commonplace to use the latter term in Norwegian as well, because there is no accurate translation.
One may perhaps imagine that Passage's ambition for their own releases is to build a bridge between art music and pop. In addition to delivering compositions to others, including Alpaca Ensemble, Kristine Tjøgersen and Ole-Martin Hauser, he already has two albums of his own on his conscience. The debut album If You Do Not Have Time To Cook, You Do Not Have Time To Live from 2009 illustrates that he has a penchant for subtle titles, and was otherwise a fairly main-stream and accessible album. The subsequent double album Stop Making Sense and Start Making Success was somewhat more exploratory, but by no means far out.
The basis for his recent album was conceived while traveling around Mexico alone with his guitar, and is perhaps even more accessible than the debut album. He brings with him a bunch of prominent musicians at Sunwards, not least the bassist Jo Berger Myhre with whom he has worked closely from the time before his education at the Grieg Academy. Myhre is a bassist who has crossed our keyboard a couple of times before, both colleague Stig Arne's report from Vossajazz last year , and my own record tasting from the end of 2018. Also the saxophonist Espen Reinertsen and the trumpeter Eivind Lønning are acquaintances from previous record tastings on Christian Wallumrød Ensemble's release Manyearlier this year. In the same record tasting, Eivind Lønning also appeared on another release of SOFA Music - Jan Martin Smørdal's Choosing to Sing . The rest of the crew are Andreas Werlin, Andreas Stensland Løwe, Kim Myhr and Anders Hostad Sørås.
And the music on Sunwards is more accessible than some of the previous releases from Lasse Passage, and stands in strong contrast to the typical releases from SOFA Music, which tend to be exciting contemporary compositions in the more demanding musical terrain. Here we are in a completely different landscape, which balances between singer/songwriter and pop.
The music on this release is directly catchy and occasionally hilarious tunes, but still with high musical quality. Lasse Passage's guitar and rather bright vocals dominate the tunes, and I Need a Holiday and God Is in the Nature are among my favorite songs, closely followed by 300,000 Francs and If the Wind.
Read more about Sunwards at SOFA Music