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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Nuiversum - Ballads of Now & When (Repeat Until Death, 2015) *****

By Eyal Hareuveni

The Swedish, free-improvised duo of pianist Lisa Ullén and double bass player Nina de Heney have worked together since 2008, establishing themselves as a highly creative, imaginative and genre blind unit. Last year the duo expanded into a trio and recorded with cellist Okkyung Lee (Look Right, LJ Records) and a live EP with vocalist Mariam Wallentin (More on Ullén Disorder label), known as Mariam the Beliver and half of the duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums (with partner, drummer Andreas Werliin from Fire! trio and orchestra). The short, beautiful EP enriched the duo sonic universe with dreamy art-rock sensibilities and its spellbinding potential certainly justified more from this trio.

Now, under the moniker Nuiversum (Nu in Swedish means now and Universum means The Universe, hence Now is the Universe) the trio is ready to seize the world. Its sophomore LP is a beautiful transparent vinyl with an impressive art work of Canadian Lauren Tamaki (including a translation of the lyrics to Japanese). The trio proves to be a singular, poetic trio, in its imaginative instrumental interplay - introducing Wallentin playing percussion, including on the Chinese guzheng string instrument, and guitar, Ullén as sensitive prepared piano player de Heney as one of the most natural and intuitive masters of the double bass, and in its suggestive lyrical imagery, written by Wallentin and de Heney.

The ten concise pieces articulate disturbing and painful emotional storms, reflected in the open, often chaotic yet quiet nature of the music. Wallentin recites and whispers the poetic texts rather than sings them, using her charismatic phrasing and the dark colors of her vocals as another sonic ingredient. Her sensual reading of “Inside Rain” with the impeccable bow work of de Heney and spare, rhythmic piano playing of Ullén transform this miniature song to a dream-state vision. That feeling intensifies in the hazy, wordless “Tiger Dreaming in High Grass” and on de Heney hypnotic "Carpeted Dreams". “Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered” sound as as a sobering answer to the popular tune of Rogers & Hart with the same title, still carrying a promise of the potential of strong relationship:”... when we were a team, a gang, a bang a sudden storm that could bow through any time…”.

A true masterpiece, full of deep wisdom, burning passion and naked fragility.

Available from Instantjazz


Colin Green said...

Not sure about the last line quoted, but then I do have a puerile sense of humour.

I wondered, is it the vinyl or the sound that's transparent?

Loki Motive said...

Just to answer the above comment, nearly a month later, the vinyl is transparent (sort of a grayish transparent, actually). I would not categorize the sound as transparent, neither the production nor the composition.