Old Customs Hall
October 31, 2003
”This is the way the world ends/This is the way the world ends/This is the way the world ends/ not with a bang but a whimper.” T.S. Eliot’s words run through my head as the Norwegian quintet Wibutee, the opening act of the Tampere Jazz Happening, drive headlong towards the climax of their set. The hard-edged industrial beat slowly eats itself, the sax trailing off, bass breaking up, the dancing green clovers and line of twittering arrows projected behind the band reflecting their strain. Eliot’s stuttering lines echo the band’s own repetitive dance beats, pushing forward towards the inevitable fizzling out. After every high there is the come down-a fitting finish considering Wibutee plays what saxophonist Håkon Kornstad calls “improvised club music.” For over an hour they throw up dense clouds of sound supported by sound sensitive images. They draw from every club genre-techno, drum’n’bass, trip-hop and every cross-breed thereof-without ever being derivative.
The music-messy and bursting with energy as most blends of acoustic jazz and electronica tend to be-expresses a loose, free-ranging spirit, expanding club music to a more detailed, interactive level; the difference being here there is no audience of dance-happy ravers ready to bend their bodies to the sounds. Instead there is polite jazz festival audience listening intently. Wibutee reflects a larger trend in today's society, and in particular the arts: reshaping genres and media to fit into new and unexpected contexts, with the goal of creating fresh experiences.
The quintet (that includes the live video manipulator Marius Watz) play five separate pieces, a break from the club tradition of continuous sets, usually beginning with a duet between Per Zanussi on electric or acoustic bass and multi-instrumentalist Håkon Kornstad. They open with Zanussi bowing his upright and Kornstad pulling squaling phrases from his tenor. On two other tunes they repeat this formula, yet Kornstad switches up the textures on one with flute.
By playing with a club music approach the group has set itself an enormous challenge, because club music goes one direction only: upwards towards a throbbing intensity. Wibutee certainly moves its music this direction, replete with other club conventions: trance-like breaks acting as tension-building plateaus, thick levels of skittering, manic percussion, and massive bass lines. But watching live musicians engage in this style ratchets the tension higher and heightens the excitement.
STERNKLANG’s live sound treatment adds crunchy beats and percussive electronic textures for the musicians to play off of, freeing their instruments from normal “blowing” standards. Kornstad can add false-upper register squeaks that ricochet off Welte Holte’s rapid brush rolls and fill in the cracks of Zanussi’s revolving low-end.
This sonic density gets filtered through Watz’s shifting, digitized shapes, giving the music yet another layer of expression. Now the music reaches beyond dancing, beyond listening and becomes, in the richest sense of the word, an experience.
Complete coverage of the 2003 Tampere Jazz Festival...
Tampere Jazz Happening: Speaking a Universal Language
Wibutee in Tampere: Club Music and Jazz Collide
Erik Truffaz in Tampere: Fusion for the 21st Century
The Bad Plus in Tampere: Cinematic Trio Images
The Electrics in Tampere: All-Acoustic Electricity
Kornstad Trio in Tampere: Improvisation as Negotiation
Scorch Trio in Tampere: If Hendrix and Coltrane had a Love Child...
Uri Caine's Bedrock 3 in Tampere: Too Many DJs
Gnomus & Jukka Gustavsson in Tampere: The Wit of the Improviser
William Parker's Healing Song in Tampere
Samuli Mikkonen in Tampere: Composed Moods and Spontaneous Energy
Louis Sclavis in Tampre: Memories of a Naples that Never Was