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Monday, March 12, 2018

Introducing Swedish Guitarist Finn Loxbo

Swedish guitarist Finn Loxbo is known as one of the two guitarists on Mats Gustafsson’s Fire Orchestra's Ritual Incarnation (Rune Grammofon, 2016), where he sketched noisy, thorny textures with French guitarist Julien Desprez, or from his role as aggressive electric bass player in the power trio Doglife. His solo albums offer a completely different side of his playing.

Finn Loxbo - Eter (Gikt, 2018) ***½

Eter - ether in Swedish, is Loxbo's second solo album but it is totally different from his debut Lines, Curtains (Kning disk, 2012), that featured him as a dreamy singer-songwriter, coming from the school of Nick Drake. Eter, the first album on Loxbo's newly founded label Gikt, was recorded in 2015 and focuses on a disciplined exploration of the sonic scope and timbral range of the acoustic, steel-stringed guitar.

Each of the seven pieces stresses a distinct mode of playing. “Slutet var nära redan då” is a methodical game of overtones created by touching gently the resonating strings, letting the gently ringing, metallic sounds extend and blend in each other. On “Dribblingar” Loxbo tunes the guitar as an exotic harp, sketching a melodic texture and on “Klockspik och märlor” he turns the guitar as an ethereal percussive instrument. He experiments with rubbing and scratching of the strings and the guitar wooden body on “Ont gott blod” and “Delirium”, offering nuanced and restless, industrial-sounding drones. “Land och sjövädret” is a free improvisation that links Loxbo to the pioneering work of Derek Bailey. This beautiful, free-associative improvisation slowly turns into an imaginative, lyrical composition. The last “Sa dom met” is a gentle, folk song that may originated in the sessions of Lines, Curtains.

Finn Loxbo / Erik Blennow Calälv - Snow Country (Creative Sources, 2017) ****

Loxbo's collaboration with bass clarinet player Erik Blennow Calälv, from the experimental quartet The Schematics, focuses on contemplative drones. It is one of Loxbo'a duo collaborations in recent years that also include sessions with pianists Lisa Ullén and Karin Johansson. The five pieces on Snow Country, recorded on April 2017, feature Loxbo creating fleeting, resonating tones on the acoustic, steel-stringed guitar and the musical saw, while Calälv adds shakuhachi-like, deep breaths that echo and blend within the guitar sounds. Both patiently suggest ethereal string of overtones that keep flowing around, almost embrace you gently.

The highly disciplined dimension of these pieces has a ritualistic-meditative quality, emphasized with a piece titled “Ryoanji”, after the famous Japanese Zen garden in Kyoto, that inspired before an ionic composition from John Cage. Just like in a meditative state of mind when all senses are suspended for a while only to experience these sense later on in all their intensity, Snow Country suggests a new listening experience. Loxbo and Calälv explore new, subtle qualities, colors and dynamics within the sounds themselves, just like the snow that comes in many shapes, textures and names in these Northern territories.