(Rune Grammofon RCD 2147)
Of course one shouldn’t be surprised when the first instrument one hears on an Arve Henriksen album, just after some quiet field recording of bird noises, is something half way between a Japanese shakuhachi flute and the human voice. This is the kind of thing the Norwegian seems to be able to manage on the trumpet. And yet it’s still deeply compelling. It demands your attention in a generous, sharing “look at this” manner rather than in a “look at me” way.
And then it is joined by a sweep of electronically altered strings, ecclesiastical sounding voices, high atmospherics and low bass tones. At the end the trumpet voice is so close you can hear the crack of spit on the mouthpiece.
The second track, Saraswati, expands the instrumentation from Henriksen, Jan Bang on samples and Erik Honoré on synths, to include Lars Danielsson on bass and the Stahlquartett. But the music holds to this rich mix of the electronic and acoustic, and this churchy feel. Churches in space, perhaps.
Which they all are, I suppose… Places Of Worship is Henriksen’s reflections upon church buildings and ruins. These are tone poems which evoke not only buildings but natural habitats as well – the church ruin with trees growing out of it; the birds living in the belfries.
The rest of the album is mainly the trio, and the compositional credits match the players on each piece, so one must assume they are created collectively and largely in the moment. Lament features Henriksen’s extraordinary falsetto singing, as magical as his trumpet playing, Portal has an almost orchestral scope, courtesy of samples, and Alhambra uses Eivind Aarset’s acoustic guitars as a crucial element, and Henriksen in muezzin mood.
As is so often the case with Arve Henriksen’s music, one finds oneself suddenly still and leaning in towards the speakers. He slows time and encourages reflection. Reflection not only upon the beauty he creates, but deeper things as well. If there are deeper things than beauty.
The only slightly false note comes at the end, with Honoré singing Shelter From The Storm (his own song, not Dylan’s). It’s a very pretty, hymn-like tune, but perhaps because the words are in English I feel I am being denied the mysterious, non-specific art that has gone before.
- Arve Henriksen and Jan Bang are playing in the round in Birmingham Town Hall at 3.30pm on Sunday 3 November. More information here. Arve is also taking part in At Your Own Risk the previous evening. Details here. Both are part of RISK, a whole weekend of events curated by THSH.
Categories: CD review