Places of Worship marks the return of Supersilent's trumpeter and vocalist Arve Henriksen to Rune Grammofon after his 2008 solo album Cartography for ECMif we conveniently ignore the awesome compilation Solidification (Rune Grammofon, 2012). While this new release is credited to Henriksen alone, it continues his long-standing collaboration with Jan Bang and Erik Honoré of Punkt, who played on and produced it, so it could rightly have been credited to all three.
In a methodology reminiscent of Jon Hassell's Fourth World, Bang and Honoré's synths and samples are used to construct richly varied environments in which Henriksen takes centre stagerather like the soloist in a concerto... except that the album consists of ten tracks of which the longest lasts just five minutes. Although other musicians feature throughoutmost notably on the exquisitely beautiful "Alhambra," in which Bang and Honoré both employ live sampling to good effectthe distinctive sounds of Henriksen's trumpet and voice dominate the album, more than justifying his solo billing.
As its title hints, the intention of Places of Worship was to make audible the aura of a selection of religious buildings and ruins, an intention which it easily achieves. The track titles reveal that a range of religions are included and the music reflects that, from the trumpet's plaintive muezzin call on "Adhān" to the subtler, more meditative ambiance of "Bayon." Henriksen's soaring falsetto vocals feature on "Lament" and "Abandoned Cathedral" and are reminiscent of the pure tones a pre-pubescent choirboy, so serving to strongly reinforce the pervading quasi-religious atmosphere of the album. Of the ten tracks, only "Alhambra" was recorded away from the Punkt studio, and that feels rather like a missed opportunity; Henriksen's trumpet and vocals both cry out to be recorded in naturally resonant spaces such as real places of worship; maybe another time, eh?
The sole exception to the overarching religious theme is the album's closing track "Shelter from the Storm," a song written and sung by Honoré himself. Despite sharing its title with a Bob Dylan song, it sounds as if it could have originated on a previously unknown Leonard Cohen album, as illustrated by Honoré's phraseology: "You are my signature / the hand that writes my future / the hidden epitaph / the words beyond my reach / so give me shelter from the storm..." Throughout it, Henriksen provides suitably beautiful trumpet interjections which emphasise the song's haunting melody. Although an anomaly, the track makes an exquisite end to a stunning album. One of the year's best.
Track Listing: Adhān; Saraswati; Le Cimetière Marin; The Sacristan; Lament; Portal; Alhambra; Bayon; Abandoned Cathedral; Shelter from the Storm.
Personnel: Arve Henriksen: trumpets, field recordings (1), voice (5, 9); Jan Bang: samples (1-4, 6, 8, 9), programming (6, 9), live sampling (7); Erik Honoré: samples (1, 2, 4, 5), synth bass (1, 4, 6, 8), synthesizers (2, 3, 4), drum programming (2, 3), live sampling (7), vocal (10), instruments (10); Lars Danielsson: double bass (3); Stahlquartett (Jan Heinke: violin; Alexander Fülle: violin; Michael Antoni: viola; Peter Andreas: cello): string quartet (3); Eivind Aarset: guitars (7, 8), sampled guitar (9); Jon Balke: piano (7), sampled piano (9); Ingar Zach: percussion (7); Christian Wallumrød: sampled piano (3); The Norwegian Wind Ensemble: sampled wind instruments (8); Peter Tornquist: sampled excerpts from "Alba" (8); Rolf Wallin: sampled crystal chord (9).
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