For their fourth album releasethe second on the Hubro labelthe Norwegian guitar/bass/drums (plus effects) trio Huntsville have moved away from the collaborations (notably that with vocalist Hanne Hukkelberg) which characterised their last two recordings, and again opted to record as a threesome. The main reason for that is obvious once the music begins. Past Increasing, Future Receding was recorded in the Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum at Slemdal in Osloa dimly lit barrel-vaulted room completely covered in frescos painted by Vigeland, who erected the building in 1926 to house his sculptures and paintings in the future. Now a popular concert and recording venue, the space has extraordinary acoustics so that even the smallest sound in it produces a long echo.
The opening track, "Presence in Absence," begins with a low-key drone that is unobtrusive enough to cause no great echoesand then, some eighty-four seconds in, a far louder percussive sound resounds (and resounds and resounds...) for all of ten seconds, amply demonstrating just what the space is capable of. Among improvising musicians, it has become a truism that the space in which an ensemble performs is like an extra band member, and just as important as other members. Here, that is particularly true, for the space assumes as much importance as the members of the trio, making any other collaboration unnecessary. As they would with any collaborator, the three musicians play around with the space, finding out what it can do and how it responds to the different stimuli they send to it. That process makes fascinating listening as they go on a voyage of discovery... but it would have been good to hear more of the journey they went on.
Oddly, Past Increasing, Future Receding is "the result of three intense working days with sound technician Thomas Hukkelberg." One of the more remarkable things about it is that the sum total of those three days is less than thirty five minutes of released music. One can only conclude that lots of music was recorded but never usedmaybe experimentation in the space that was not totally successful? As a result of such selection, the music that was released is of a consistently high standard with no troughs or flat patches. Time after time, the three musicians plus the space combine together to create an appealing groove that contains enough variation and detail to stay fresh and interesting over many repeated listenings.
There is a considerable history of albums recorded in acoustically extraordinary environments; notable examples include John Butcher and Toshimaru Nakamura's Cavern with Nightlife (Weight of Wax, 2002), Butcher's solo recording Resonant Spaces (Confront, 2006), Evan Parker's September Winds and September Duos (Creative Works, 2000) and, of course, several Deep Listening Band albums such as Troglodyte's Delight (¿What Next? 1990). Now, Past Increasing, Future Receding deserves to join such a distinguished list.
Presence in Absence; The Flow of Sand; In an Hourglass
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