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Sten Hostfalt: Eternity Check

Dan McClenaghan By

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A good deal of music that falls into the free jazz/improvised music category can sound like unstructured noise to the uninitiated listener, like the sounds made by a ensemble of adolescents without a year's worth of musical training between them noodling away on unfamiliar instruments.

"Turn it up loud and listen again," a mentor once told me in answer to my question: "What the hell is Ornette Coleman doing on Free Jazz ?" I did; eventually things began to congeal and make sense to my ear.

That was Ornette. Eternity Check is Swedish-born guitarist Sten Hostfalt, who has studied with Jimmy Giuffre and Joe Maneri. He offers up here a four tune set from sessions laid down a decade apart. The fifteen minute title tune was recorded in '92, the three other tracks in '01. The two sets showcase different sounds, distractingly so. Minimalist guitar/bass/accordion/drums for the latter three; trumpet/guitar/bass/drums and electronics on the title tune.

With the best of the free jazz, with the first encounter there's always a feeling of (to paraphrase Bob Dylan), "Something's happening here and I'm quite sure what it is." Repeated spins reveal fabrics and textures beneath subtle and ineffable themes; or those repeat spins feature huge in-your-face themes in front of subtle textures and colors. Something's happening and the listener comes to some sort of realization of what it is.

But with Eternity Check the feeling is "Not much is happening and I don't care what it is."

The first three songs—the '01 session—seem aimless, guitar and accordion drifting in an uninspired fashion. One gets the feeling that's the point, but the sound is uninteresting and doesn't entice further exploration. It just sort of "is," without spirit or any particular enticement. The song "Eternity Check" is more on edge, louder, with trumpet screeches and guitar wails, but it too doesn't seem to establish for itself any greater themes beyond that of immediate unstructured noise.

A disappointing set, but in fairness, I've listened to it more than a dozen times of my own free will, so my charge that "it doesn't entice" may be off mark a bit. Maybe it does, in some strange way that leaves me still disappointed.

Visit Sten Hostfalt on the web.

Track Listing: Five Days, Number Four, Krux, Eternity Check

Personnel: LiseLotte Norelius (percussion and drums); Mathew Garrison (bass); Takuya Nakamura (trumpet, electronics); Magnus Lind (accordion); Blake Lindberg (drums); Sten Hostfalt (compositions, guitar, hexaphonic sythesizer and electronics)

Title: Eternity Check | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: g-wOw

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