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Terje Isungset: Ice Concerts

Eyal Hareuveni By

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I am quite confident that this is the first outdoor live recording in which none of the concerts were cancelled due to bad weather; the judgmental term "bad weather" is not used here carelessly. Ice Concerts is the fourth installment of music produced (mostly) by instruments made of the natural elements of ice, by pioneer Norwegian ice instrumentalist and innovative percussionist, Terje Isungset.

It was recorded as the world's first ice musical tour in some of the coldest places on this planet: The Norwegian island Spitsbergen in the Arctic ocean, Lake Shikotsu in the Japan's northern island Hokkaido and the northern Saami town Kautokeino, in Norway, near the border with Finland, where the temperature dropped to -33ºC (-27.4 ºF), among other locations.

Isungset specifies that all the recording sessions were played outdoors, (except one track which was recorded inside a unique ice cathedral in Lillehammer), and accordingly, the coldness affected the ice characteristics and the way that he customized the ice instruments for each concert. The list of collaborators this time is much wider than in his former ice duets, Igloo (All Ice, 2006 with vocalist Sidsel Endresen, and Two Moons (All Ice, 2007) with vocalist and trumpet player Per J?rgensen. This time Isungset cooperates with trumpet player/ vocalist Arve Henriksen, Saami joik vocalist Sara Marielle Gaup, folk singer Unni L?vlid, pop-jazz vocalist Lena Nymark and opera singer Silvia Moi. The sonic outcome is still coherent and arresting in its mysterious and quiet beauty.

The ice percussion instruments have a resonating quality, with a sound similar to the echoing of Tibetan singing bowls, but due to their origin they are also unpredictable, fragile, and obviously non-durable. Isungset uses their meditative sounds with great skill and imagination when he plays with vocalists. He colors the soft guttural vocals of Gaup who recites Saami songs with distant sounds, adds repeated rhythmic pattern around the folksy vocals of Unni L?vlid, gently embraces the sweet vocals of Lena Nymark and with the sound manipulations of Jon Halvor Bj?rnset creates an eerie texture that accompanies the precise phrasing of Moi. On all these duets he suggests a close intimacy.

The duets with Henriksen are much more experimental, offering a daring and spare interpretation of Edvard Grieg's dance piece "Fola, fola Blacken," setting Henriksen's fragile vocals in an almost deserted sonic environment, or challenging Henriksen on the "icehorns" that offers a familiar whispering sound to Henriksen's trumpet, only a deeper one.

On the solo pieces, most of them recorded in some of the colder locations, Isungset lets nature—ice and falling snow—take the lead, adapts his musical sensibilities to the changing weather and plays on the ice itself, unprocessed and raw, as the main instrument.

These concerts were captured beautifully by sound engineer Asle Karasted, and the jewel box was designed with a unique water ampoule, as a souvenir from these musical journeys. Don't miss the photos from these concerts in Isungset's Blog. Highly recommended.


Track Listing: Dolo?aigi; Fola, fola, Blakken; Contemplation; Ser deg; Inuit; Horizon; The other side; Silucian town; Ice talks; ??hcelott??; Vond dag; Duottarjorga?¡; Silent Coldness; Ice Memories.

Personnel: Terje Isungset: ice percussion, flute, voice; icefon; icehorn, ice; Sara Merielle Gaup: joik (1, 10, 12); Arve Henriksen: trumpet (2), vocal (5,7), icehorns (7); Unni L?vlid: vocal (4, 6); Lena Nymark: vocal (8); Silvia Moi: vocal (11); Jon Halvor Bj?rnset: live sampling; Nature: snow and ice.

Title: Ice Concerts | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: All-Ice Records

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