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Live Reviews

Molde Jazz: Day 4, July 16, 2009

By Published: July 20, 2009

While capable of similar intensity, Norwegian improvising unit Huntsville has always been less heavy than Supersilent, with its music a unique confluence of unfettered free play, trance-inducing repetition and an uncanny ability to evolve the music so imperceptibly that it's difficult to pin down just how and when shifts have been made. Both the trio's performance at Punkt 2007 and its most recent release, the double-disc Echoes, Arches & Eras (Rune Grammofon, 2009), were strong representations of a group for whom improvisation is at its core. With instrumentation including a tabla machine, acoustic guitar and banjo, Huntsville has integrated elements of folk and Indian music into its aesthetic.

Molde Jazz Festival / Huntsville l:r: Ingar Zach, Tony Kluften

But there were some considerable distinctions as well, and some clear changes in the wind. For one, bassist Tony Kluften was playing an electric bass rather than the acoustic one he used at Punkt only two years ago. While he lost certain options—the ability to slide up and down the bass with smooth glissandi, for example—he gained others: bending notes, towards the end of the trio's single, continuous, 70-minute improvised set, with an almost unprecedented elasticity. Less an anchor than a low-register soundscapist, he also integrated a variety of effects to create a sound that, rather than being visceral and in-the-gut, was more atmospheric.

Percussionist Ingar Zach's rig was an unusual one, combining a huge marching band bass drum laid flat on its stand, a couple of snare drums and cymbals, and a variety of machines, including the tabla machine, that drove the shifting pulses throughout most of the performance. He also had an endless array of small sound generators including electric devices that spun and, when placed in a metal bowl on top of the bass drum, created all kinds of surprising textures. Rather than hammering hard, as Henriksen often did with Supersilent, Zach often relied on brushes to create forward motion, even as Kluften's bass fleshed out the bottom end and guitarist Iver Grydeland used a huge floorboard of pedals to turn his electric guitar and banjo into instruments capable of generating sharp, angular lines, gritty dissonant chords strummed with fiery relentlessness, and abstruse chords that created an unsettled foundation for the rest of his band mates.

Molde Jazz Festival / Huntsville / Iver GrydelandGrydeland's approach seemed heavily influenced by Nels Cline
Nels Cline
Nels Cline
guitar, electric
—who guested on disc two of Echoes, recorded live at the 2007 Kongsberg Jazz Festival—though he doesn't possess the American guitarist's encyclopedic breadth or penchant for using kitchen implements like a whisk to produce unexpected sounds. But curiously—especially given Echoes' recent release and a quantum leap in its assimilation of Americana roots music into Huntsville's brand of spontaneous invention—Grydeland stayed largely away from anything remotely folkloric; choosing, instead, to mine single notes, like a low open string, for all they were worth, applying an ever-shifting combination of effects and an often frenetic right hand.

As unscripted as a Huntsville performance largely is, it's rarely without a pulse, largely from Zach's persistent use of the tabla machine, but equally coming from Grydeland's real-time playing and looping. And that makes it a free experience unusual for the possibility to see the audience swaying slightly with the rhythm, no matter how outré the rest of the proceedings had become. The music ebbed and flowed, with rhythmic emphasis shifting in ways that, if attention wasn't being paid, seemed to come out of nowhere but, in reality, were logical and inevitable outgrowths of what had come before. Less beautiful and more foreboding than some of Supersilent's softer moments, Huntsville's possessed its own charm and, in spite of a clear veneer that was often not for the faint-at-heart, a certain skewed accessibility that kept its audience enthralled for its entire performance.

Tomorrow: Leonard Cohen.

Visit Arve Henriksen, Supersilent, Huntsville and Molde Jazz on the web.

Photo Credits

All Photos: John Kelman

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

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