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Eldbjorg Raknes: From Frozen Feet Heat Came (2009)

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Trondheim-based voice artist Eldbjorg Raknes, like fellow Norwegian voice artist Sidsel Endresen, has developed a highly personal and non-literary vocal language over the last fifteen years. Like Endresen, with whom Raknes collaborated on Gack! (Jazzland, 1999), with the all-vocal improvisation trio ESE also featuring Elin Rosseland, Raknes is constantly pushing the musical envelope with each new work. On her last releases Solo and I Live Suddenly (My Recordings, 2006), she chose to interpret poems by Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge and by Paul Celan and Robert Frost. On From Frozen Feet Heat Came she chooses to experiment with spontaneous improvisations on her poems.

Raknes chose two like-minded musicians from the cutting-edge front of the Norwegian improvisation scene to accompany her. Guitarist Stian Westerhus—a member of free improv-meets-noise outfit Puma and the popular jazz/rock ensemble Jaga Jazzist—is a distinct voice that sounds as if it's attempting to hybridize the abstract improv philosophy of Derek Bailey with thrash metal hammering of Slayer. Reed player Eirik Hegdal, of the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and Zanussi Five, uses breath and reed mechanics in the same manner as the inspired British player John Butcher. Raknes adds electronics and live sampling of her voice to their uncompromising mix of dense and thorny textures.

But what may sound like the recipe for an extreme free-form improv experience is actually a cycle of sound poems that has a well-defined logic and coherence. Each poem seem to comment and keep its former poem's thread, all dealing vaguely with the regenerating cycle of life. Raknes' serene and haunting articulation sometimes contrasts and, more often, adds an ethereal dimension to the beautifully strange sound worlds that Westerhus and Hegdal create. Both Westerhus and Hegdal have an inventive palette of sounds that stress all of Raknes' vocal colors, from whispering hiss to sampled screaming drones; and both possess such an idiosyncratic language that they keep challenging each other.

Preconceived conventions about song form may need to be surrendered in order to fully appreciate From Frozen Feet Heat Came—a fearless trip into vocal expression and new sound textures that creates a unique and inspiring experience.

Track Listing: Some Day; Like Lighter; Sun Shine; From Frozen Feet; Heat Came; Closer; Ka Da?; Sa, Sa; See, Sing; Sit Down; Where; Everyway, Everyday.

Personnel: Eldbjorg Raknes: voice; live sampling, electronics, bells; Stian Westerhus: guitars, electronics; Eirik Hegdal: saxophones, clarinet.

Record Label: My Recordings

Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde


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