This unconventional quartet is comprised of Frode Gjerstad
, fellow Norwegians and citizens of the Norwegian reeds hero's hometown, Stavanger, vocalist Stine Janvin Motland and drummer Ståle Liavik Solberg (known also as the MotSol duo, for whom Gjerstad produced the debut, Strap on
(FMR, 2006)). Frequent Gjerstad collaborator, Chicago-based cellist Fred Longberg-Holm, rounds out the quartet, his last collaboration with the reed player, Sugar Maple
, together with Chicago drummer Michael Zerang
, released by FMR in 2010.
Even though Gjerstad is the link between all musicians, and the one in charge of recording, mixing and mastering this recording, this is definitely a collaborative effortone that is improvised on the spot, wild, adventurous and highly rewarding. Motland is a creative vocal artist with an amazing vocal range, wild imagination and wicked sense of humor. At times, she sounds as if she is playing with the textures Longberg-Holm and Gjerstad are producing from cello and clarinet, experimenting with emulation of these tones, pushing them to otherworldly limits; elsewhere, she sounds as though she's mocking their limited vocabularies (compared to hers, on any given moment), or simply inventing new languages. Solberg has his own sense of rhythm, free from the task of injecting a steady pulse, and free to focus on adding nuanced colors to all the improvisations.
Gjerstad and Lonberg-Holm are excellent partners for this kind of free-form improvisations, both experienced and creative musicians, fast thinking, collaborative and supportive and ready for any sonic challenge. Together, they support beautifully Motland's vocal flights and Solberg's fractured, spare percussion, solidifying them with a sense of form and coherence. "CXSX" and "WDED" are such improvisations, where a gentle, dreamy interplay between Gjerstad and Lonberg-Holm abruptly changes to dense, stormy talk when Motland and Solberg join, but still follow an internal logic without falling apart.
On other improvisations, such as "UBCB," everyone produces strange sounds from their instruments Lonberg-Holm and Solberg rubbing theirs, Gjerstad humming through his clarinet, and Motland sounding equally busy, inventing an alien prayer with distant, angelic utterances. The outcome is surprisingly melodic, and warm and arresting in its sonic possibilities. On the other improvisations the quartet strengthens its unique musical language, stressing tight and supportive interplay, and inevitably raising high hopes for a follow-up to this engaging recording.