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Three new releases on Rune Grammofon


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Norway's Rune Grammofon label long ago established itself in the front rank, initially based on releases by the group Supersilent plus releases including its members Deathprod (Helge Sten), Ståle Storløkken and Arve Henriksen. In addition, the label has gradually built up an impressive roster including such Scandinavian artists as Alog, Fire!, Jenny Hval, Motorpsycho and Susanna and The Magical Orchestra. Consequently, although Supersilent 12 cannot be far away, Rune Grammofon has been well placed to cope with the group's relative inactivity in recent years, with Arve Henriksen being notable among its members for his releases on the label.

Fire! Orchestra
Rune Grammofon

Fire! Orchestra is an extension of the Fire! trio—ace saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Johan Berthling and drummer Andreas Werliin. The orchestra's 28-strong lineup includes three vocalists, three guitarists, three bassists, three drummers, two keyboards and one electronicist, plus an impressive array of brass and reeds players. Their first album, Exit (Rune Grammofon, 2013)—recorded live in concert at the headquarters of Fylkingen, Stockholm, in January 2012—was widely praised as one of the outstanding releases of 2013. It drew comparisons with such large ensembles as Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath and Keith Tippett's Centipede. Although Fire! Orchestra rarely rivals the uninhibited free blowing of the latter two ensembles, those comparisons indicate the fire-power its lineup can give the music.

As its title hints, Enter is very different to Exit, although the two are probably best regarded as a complementary pair. In contrast to its predecessor, Enter was studio-recorded and consequently has a more controlled, subdued feel. As before, Enter features the vocalists prominently throughout; on Exit, Mariam Walletin (of Wildbirds and Peacedrums) and Ethiopian-born Sofia Jernberg were chanting ritualistic lyrics penned by Arnold de Boer of Dutch band The Ex. Here, vocalist Simon Ohlsson joins them and the lyrics are by Walletin herself, focussing on the cyclical pattern of living and dying, entering and exiting: "You've got to enter to exit, keep looking straight into the light."

The music was composed by the core trio of Fire! Across its four parts, it includes a range of contrasting styles from the smouldering funk of "part one," through the rockier "part two," with its riff "borrowed" from The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows," into "part three"'s bold vocal improv before culminating in a full-blooded climax fuelled by the brass and reeds. Good as it is, in future, Fire! Orchestra would benefit from losing control and letting rip a bit more often; when they do, they are a force with which to be reckoned...

Sten Sandell & Paal Nilssen-Love
Rune Grammofon

Sten Sandell is present on keyboards in the Fire! Orchestra on Enter, but gets rather lost in the crowd and makes little impression in his own right. Fortunately, Jacana redresses the balance and allows him to shine in the company of the redoubtable drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, a longstanding member of the pianist's own trio. The time the two have played together and the experiences they have shared are all too obvious when they play together as a duo; they display the kind of understanding that only comes with time, the kind that attracts descriptions such as "instinctive" or "telepathic," but is really nothing of the sort, having been developed over many long years. Recorded live at the 2013 Kongsberg Jazz Festival, here they are in top form.

Together they play two long improvisations, totalling some forty minutes, with the shorter title piece as a finale. Right from the opening notes of "Curvature," the two produce an impressively dense and detailed barrage of music that belies the fact that we are only hearing two musicians in action. The speed of their thoughts and actions sweeps the listener along relentlessly. At times, the temptation is to pause and rewind in order to rehear certain passages, but with more and more pouring forth, it is a temptation best resisted—far better to rehear the whole in its entirety than to pick and choose. Throughout, their music has an impeccable sense of logic to it; whatever they do, it seems right and seems to work, particularly as they do it together with complete assurance, the kind that brooks no argument. That remains true even when the barrage temporarily subsides and they drop the volume to a very low level, or when Nilssen-Love forsakes his kit to just indulge in a bout of polyrhythmic hand-clapping. Duo improvisation at its finest. Stunning.

Arve Henriksen
The Nature of Connections
Rune Grammofon

Phew! For followers of trumpeter, vocalist and polymath Arve Henriksen's work, this release continues a busy period. It comes after the excellent Places of Worship , in the company of Jan Bang and Erik Honoré of Punkt, and hard on the heels of the totally solo double CD Chron + Cosmic Creation which combined one CD, Chron, only previously available as part of the Solidification compilation box set, with a second CD of adventurous new recordings made by Henriksen "at home and in various locations such as hotels, airports, planes, railway stations and backstage in Norway, Sweden, Germany and Italy." Now, The Nature of Connections shows another contrasting side of Henriksen.

On the studio-recorded album, Henriksen is featured with a string quartet of two violins, cello and double bass as well as the highly experienced drummer Audun Kleive; together, the five provide settings that perfectly complement and frame Henriksen's playing without unduly distracting attention from it. The music consists of six compositions by members of the string quartet—including two each by cellist Svante Henryson and double bassist Mats Eilertsen—plus one by Henriksen, arranged by all the musicians, one composed by all of them, and keyboardist Ståle Storløkken's "Hymn." While the latter goes some way to recreating the quasi-religious feel that pervaded Places of Worship, the pieces by the participants mix Nordic folk melodies and chamber music in ways that are simultaneously mesmering and melodic. The music handsomely repays each repeat visit. Fortunately, Henriksen is steadily becoming a mainstay of Rune Grammofon—excellent news on current form.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks:Enter part one; Enter part two; Enter part three;Enter part four.

Personnel: Mats Gustafsson: tenor saxophone, conducting; Mariam Walletin: voice; Sofia Jernberg: voice; Simon Ohlsson: voice; Goran Kajfes: cornet; Niklas Barnö: trumpet; Magnus Broo: trumpet; Emil Strandberg: trumpet; Mats Äleklint: trombone; Per Åke Holmlander: horns; Anna Högberg: alto saxophone; Elin Larsson: tenor saxophone; Frederik Junungkvist: baritone saxophone and clarinet; Martin Küchen: baritone saxophone; Christer Bothén: bass clarinet; Jonas Kullhammar: bass saxophone; Andreas Söderström: lap steel guitar; Sören Runolf: electric guitar; David Stackenäs: electric and acoustic guitar; Martin Hederos: Fender Rhodes and organ; Sten Sandell: keyboards, Mellotron; Joachim Nordwall: electronics; Johan Berthling: electric bass; Joel Grip: bass; Dan Berglund: bass; Andreas Werliin: drums; Johan Holmegard: drums; Raymond Strid: drums.


Tracks: Curvature; Kauri; Jacana.

Personnel: Sten Sandell: piano, voice; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums, percussion.

The Nature of Connections

Tracks: Blá Veg; Hambopolskavalsen; Budbringeren; Seclusive Song; Hymn; Aceh; Keen; Arco Akropolis; Salm.

Personnel: Arve Henrisen: trumpet, piccolo trumpet, piano; Nils Økland: violin, Hardanger fiddle, viola d'amore; Svante Henryson: cello; Gjermund Larsen: violin, Hardanger fiddle; Mats Eilertsen: double bass; Audun Kleive: drums.



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