Christian Wallumrod Ensemble: Fabula Suite Lugano (ECM 271 1269)
With each release by his ensemble, the Swedish keyboardist and composer seems to have widened his stylistic scope even further. The group started out as a quartet, expanded to a sextet with their previous CD The Zoo Is Far, and maintains that size here with just one personnel change: Eivand Lonning in for Arve Henriksen on trumpet.
So, with the other instruments being cello, violin or Hardanger fiddle, harp and percussion, the palette of sounds remains intriguing and capable of a wide range of moods, which is just how Wallumrod likes it. And this is very much ensemble music, with no particular attention given to individual soloists.
The music picks up influences from the near avant garde classical and experimental composers like Morton Feldman, and from the distant Baroque past of Domenico Scarlatti.
The most immediately compelling pieces are the two versions of Jumpa, which in their strangely stately ways conjure up two very serious circus processions at the court of some 17th-century Swedish king. But then you get a piece like Dancing Deputies which is like a minimalist free jazz work-out full of played echoes. Quote Funebre, Wallumrod claims, is based on a few chords from Olivier Messiaen.
And what textures! On Snake there is the piano in the distance, plucked notes from harp and cello, the cymbals stroked with a bow, and the odd tinkle of a bell.
There is a lot of silence on this recording, and a lot of quiet interaction between the instruments – the listener is left with a fascinating sense of both the spaces between the instruments in the studio and also between the centuries of time which separate the interweaving strands of this music.
Wallumrod creates the equivalent of a coldly-lit Vermeer in sound, and a certain sense of human isolation, too. Both chilling and lovely. And triumphantly unclassifiable.