Kim Kristensen: PULSE OF TIME
Due to it’s heavy reliance on synthesizers, flute, and electronic percussion, it would be simple for the casual jazz listener to dismiss this recording as progressive rock, ambient (whatever that term means anymore), or at worst “new age.” But these judgements would be hasty and inappropriate. Although PULSE OF TIME certainly resides on the fringes of jazz, it is equally clear that the music herein stands with each foot planted firmly within territories occupied by both composition and improvisation. The result is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain where one ends and the other begins.
The dacapo web page for Kim Kristensen states that “he has composed music in a wide spectrum of genres and in various jazz configurations ranging from small groups to big bands; for classical ensembles ranging from chamber music ensembles to symphony orchestra; as well as music for film, theatre, performance art and art exhibitions. But he specializes in electronic music.” If PULSE OF TIME is representative of Mr. Kristensen’s interpretation of what the phrase “electronic music” means, then his definition does not fit squarely into either the historic sense of the term or into more modern meanings. As examples, Mr. Kristensen utilizes programming, but it is to a limited extent and is not used to build up sequenced rhythms or other obviously automated processes. While Mr. Kristensen uses electronics to emulate various instruments (pipe organ, accordion, guitar, fretless bass, etc.) he has successfully managed to avoid the pitfalls of artifice and the inevitable blandness of the “virtual band.” But most importantly, the music depends upon real musical content and not merely upon texture and effect (as some contemporary so-called “dark ambient” artists have fallen prone to).
Both Mr. Kristensen’s music and his technical abilities as a musician can be summarized in similar terms. He ardently avoids excess and gratuitous demonstrations of skill or prowess. Therefore, PULSE OF TIME is thankfully free of egotistical flash. The music is disciplined but never restrained or confined, and his lead melodic lines (on various keyboards and flute) are controlled and thoughtful, not vague or tentative (it is perhaps for these reasons that I am reminded most profoundly of the late British keyboardist Alan Gowen, although musically there is at most only a fleeting resemblance between Mr. Christensen’s work here and that of Mr. Gowen).
PULSE OF TIME consists of eleven medium length tracks (none exceed 9’42 and with most between 5 and 7 minutes duration). The tracks “First Flight”, “Salmon Fight”, and “Northern Tribes” find Mr. Kristensen accompanied by percussionist Birgit Lokke (his band mate in Souk). It is these tracks that are the most effective and enjoyable. Ms. Lokke provides buoyancy, punctuation, and an organic anchor, sympathetically complementing Mr. Kristensen’s sonic explorations. “First Flight”, which opens the disc, is especially notable as Ms. Lokke dances gracefully within, around, and through Mr. Kristensen’s gliding, wistful keyboards.
Percussionist Per Trolle’s contributions help establish a heightened sense of drama to the disc’s two longest tracks, “Tegn” (at 8’06) and “Death of a Dreamer” (at 9’42). These tracks most closely approach classic progressive rock as pensive moments yield to tension and urgency and back again. Ominous synthesizer lines are suspended above insistent bass lines and rhythms to unnerving effect on “Death of a Dreamer”.
The track which seems most traditionally electronic is “Naked in the Jungle/Cosmic Biotope” which is performed by Mr. Kristensen alone. As the title might suggest, this track transitions from primitive, “ethnic” sounding electronic rhythms to abstract, “spacey” soundscapes.
The two tracks which seem the most composed stand out not only for their excellence but also because they, regrettably, don’t seem to fit it stylistically with the rest of the recording. “Noise of the World”, written by vocalist Aviaja Lomholt but arranged by Mr. Kristensen, and the disc closer, “Cadenza”, which features inspired flamenco styled guitar by Ernesto Snajer, despite being extraordinarily good, are nevertheless the most conventional tracks.
In summary, PULSE OF TIME is very enjoyable and tastefully performed. It would be overstatement to allude to this recording as “groundbreaking” but it is certainly atypical of jazz or electronic music in general. Generally, PULSE OF TIME successfully manages to sound like all, yet none, of the genres cited above. It should appeal to fans of Kit Watkins, probably to those of Forrest Fang or Robert Rich, and possibly to those of Vangelis as well. Dacapo must be complemented for exposing yet another worthwhile Danish artist to the North American listening public.