Some eight years after his Another Timbre debut, Ist Gefallen In Der Schnee (2012), the good news for followers of Swedish composer-performer Marcus Granberg is that Let Pass My Weary Guiltless Ghosthis ninth release on the label in as many yearsis one of his best yet. Further good news is that this album features a ten-member Skogen, the group which has performed on four of the previous eight. Recorded in Stockholm in November 2019, this time out the group is led by Granberg himself on prepared piano, the only newcomers being Rhodri Davies on harp, and Simon Allen on vibraphone and amplified springs, both sounding like experienced members.
As with past Granberg pieces, for "Let Pass My Weary Guiltless Ghost" he used existing pieces of music as creative impulses to aid its composition, but without merely copying parts of those sources. In this instance, the album title hints at one source, as it is a line from the poem "O Death Rock Me Asleep" written by (or for) Anne BoleynHenry VIII's second wifewhen she was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1536, awaiting execution for adultery; the poem was set to music in the late 16th or early 17th century, by an anonymous composer. In complete contrast, the other source was Oscar-winning French composer Michel Legrand's "You Must Believe in Spring" (which Granberg first heard in his early youth, as recorded by pianist Bill Evans); hearing of Legrand's death in January 2019 prompted Granberg to use it.
Granberg's resulting piece is not rigidly composed, but consists of five large pools of musical materials, ordered into a number of sequences that are combined with a temporal framework which governs the piece throughout its durationin this case fifty-six minutes. The musicians navigate freely within this, aided by a set of guidelines and their own musical judgment. This means that, straight from its first notes, the music is striking for its openness and sense of space; the beginning, middle and end of every sound can be heard clearly, with notes being placed so that players do not obscure each other's sounds. Occasionally electronic noises rumble underneath other instruments, but never loudly enough to mask them or distract attention from them; altogether the pieces of this particular jigsaw have been put together sensitively and intelligently. Throughout, the rhythmic patterns which notes create are frequently redolent of tranquil, soothing natural sounds such as distant water dripping from trees in a forest or the babbling of a brook, with Granberg's prepared piano frequently leading.
Altogether, "Let Pass My Weary Guiltless Ghost" follows in the footsteps of past Granberg compositions played by Skogen, and shares their strengthssensitive composition, empathetic group playing and a calm soundscape which richly repays repeated listening. Its beauty is not to be missed.
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