Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dans Les Arbres - Dans Les Arbres (ECM, 2008) *****

This album is highly unusual, extremely beautiful, utterly bizarre while still being accessible. The band consists of Norwegians Ivar Grydeland on acoustic guitar, banjo and sruti box, Christian Wallumrød on prepared piano and harmonium, Ingar Zach on bass drum and percussion, and Frenchman Xavier Charles on clarinet and harmonica. The music is minimalistic, almost chamber music, quiet, without any explicit melodies, yet rhythmic, with the instruments creating unreal sounds, creating layers one on top of the other, and by doing that, building a tension that is in stark contrast by the music's subduedness. There are lots of scraping sounds from the banjo, lots of high squeals, some hypnotic rhythms and slow, almost endless notes from the clarinet, subtle and at times almost classical piano, creating an eery, plaintive but magical atmosphere, which is at the same time attractive and frightening. The titles of the tracks all represent an emotion (indifference, phlegmatic, detachment, coldness, ...) and that is what this music is all about, creating a direct conduit from feelings to sound, and I must say that the result is extraordinary. These four musicians really got rid of all preconceived notions of music and re-built it from scratch. Some tracks are more "zen-like", with little sounds breaking through the silence, demonstrating the four musicians' empathy for each others approach. Their sense of unity in creating this music is probably the most astonishing aspect of it. Unreal. A unique listening experience. Highly recommended.

Listen and download from iTunes.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Unreal sound. Very good.

FreeJazzJeff said...

I would venture to claim that, now approaching 5 years later, this is one of the most pronounced examples of what creative music critics dub "preternatural listening". Tremendous ! And rather uncanny upon first listening, even more so upon repeated plays.

Only Eve Risser's much-lauded (deservedly so) album 'En Corps' with Duboc and Perraud can compare in acuity of the human ear.

This is an evening staple - right about twilight - in my house.

FreeJazzJeff said...

And might I also add that free jazz lovers across the globe need to get over their ECM bias and approach their new releases with open ears and arms.