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Monday, September 9, 2013

Christian Wallumrød Ensemble: Outstairs (ECM, 2012) ****

Reviewed by Joe

I haven't been a fan of Christian Wallumrød's music for so long, it's a recent fad that seems to have grown on me whilst listening to some live recordings I have of this band. His approach is completely original, if you listen to his other records - trios, the ensemble, solo etc - you'll notice how he's developed his style bit by bit over the years. Moreover, that is what makes it so interesting, one could say it's all the same even! It's a music that works on small details, simple ideas that develop slowly, not unlike a melodically organised version of Skogen's "Ist Gefallen in den Schnee". Interestingly Stef also saw a connection with Wallumrød's collaboration on "Dans Les Arbres", so maybe I'm not dreaming after all!

The texture of the ensemble is of utmost importance to the colour of this music. The original band had Arve Henriksen on trumpet, which may give you a clue to the music stylistically, but since a while Eivind Lønning has been in the trumpet chair. The rest of the group is Gjermund Larsen - violin, hardanger fiddle, viola. Espen Reinertsen - tenor saxophone. Tove Törngren - cello and of course the unstoppable Per Oddvar Johansen on drums and vibraphone, and for all who don't know him, Christian Wallumrød plays piano, harmonium and toy piano. You'll notice there's NO bass and this really makes the music sound somewhere between classical and a sense of world music, which is created via the harmonium and the clever use of drums, often played with the hands. The great use of bass 'movement' via the cello, or sax even gives the music a very special sound. 

"Stille Rock" starts the album like a mournful prelude to the music that follows, Wallumrød's music has that sound, but is in fact uplifting. "Bunadsbangla" is 'the hit' of the album, and believe me he can write some catchy tunes! The album, like most of his work, is best listened to as a whole. There is little space between improvisation and composition, it sounds very organised, but it works well that way. You can make out small sections of improvisation, but don't buy this if you're looking for mind stretching new approaches, it's all about control and the beauty of restraint. There are too many pieces on the album to talk about everything. "Tridili #2" is a baroque piece with saxophone playing overtones and clusters in response to the melody. "Very Slow" is a quite piece (and slow!) using tone clusters. "Folkskiss" is a beautiful ballad that reminds you of a tune you heard long ago, but where - almost Gaelic in feeling! The scrapings and scratchings of "Third Try" could be from a gore movie.

This is a fine album that hangs musically between many worlds of sound. If you love film sound tracks that create space, and if you like organised beauty, then this is certainly one for you. 



Martin Schray said...

I like Christian Wallumrød, too, Joe. What I especially like is his notion of silence, here it often comes when I do not expect it (e.g. in Stille Rock). A lot of people see ECM very critically but their noble and elegant sound fits perfectly to his music.

joesh said...

Yes, I'm rather partial to Wallumrød too. There's something about his music that makes it very special, and quite individual. Did you like the album? And secondly, which other ones would you recommend? I've borrowed several from our local mediatheque (the same place Stef uses), but of course I'd be interested to discover the others - he's made a few in trio and solo even (I think - I should check), which I haven't heard ... as yet!

Martin Schray said...

I really like the new album. I would recommend No Birch, one of his early ones (1998), very tender music. But I haven't heard all his albums either.