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Sunday, December 22, 2019

Trying to keep up with Mia Dyberg

By Stef

What was originally planned as the review of one album by Danish saxophonist Mia Dyberg actually morphed into a whole series of recently released material.

It's always good to welcome new talent to the music scene, especially when the artists have their own strong vision of what music should and could sound like. And Mia Dyberg clearly fits into that category. Next to her own musical vision, she has the additional strength of being very open to perform with musicians with completely different approaches, and from different cultural and instrumental backgrounds, or even age groups. She demonstrates this openness with her "Duo Scrapbook Album Series", of which some of the albums are listed below. She must either be restless or very much in demand, but so far she has performed in seventeen different configurations, and played on eleven albums.

But let's start with her most official album.

Mia Dyberg Trio - Ticket! (Clean Feed, 2019) ****

The trio consists of Dyberg on sax, Asger Thomsen on double bass, and Dag Magnus Narvesen on drums. Their music holds a perfect balance between progressive jazz and free exploration, between respect for the tradition and the wild energy to go far beyond it. The album is inspired by the voice of Beat poet William Burroughs, after having heard him read his poetry, which Dyberg afterwards transposed into composed pieces, bringing her back to jazz.

Regardless of the musical space she's in, Dyberg's tone on the alto is warm and round, on the slower melancholy pieces - as on "Party ist Vorbei" or "Nord", but also on the more playful "Tropical" as on the more aggressive "Claws Out". Thomsen and Narvesen are good, fresh and solid. Maybe because of their youthfulness, I wish they would have gone a step further, into more adventurous zones, but that's a subjective wish for an otherwise excellent album.

Mia Dyberg, Masing, Rodrigues, Rodrigues & Jacobson - Egin (Creative Sources, 2019) ****

"Egin" is an improvisation of a little less than half an hour by Mia Dyberg on alto saxophone,  Elo Masing on violin, Ernesto Rodrigues on viola,  Guilherme Rodrigues on cello and Tomo Jacobson on double bass. As you can expect from father and son Rodrigues and their label, the music is avant-garde, minimal and focused on using timbral shifts in sustained horizontal soundscapes. Sonic waves slowly roll forward, with a calm drive and intensity, sometimes increasing in agitation. The music is subtle and fragile. It is obvious that the strings determine the sound and Dyberg's alto is an interesting addition to this. The chamber music on this album is so different in nature from the jazzy "Ticket!", yet Dyberg does seem to embrace the difference in approach wholeheartedly, almost as if she is as comfortable in this environment as on her own music.

Morph! - Morph! (Duoscrapbook Album Series, 2019) ****½

Dyberg shows her musical vision with more clarity and more broadly on her duo performances. The one that I found most interesting is "Morph" with Italian Roberta Wjm Andreucci on electronics. "Morph" is a 52-minute long sonic journey by both artists, a strange journey to be joining as a listener. Andreucci's electronics, turntables and CDs create a wonderful sonic landscape for Dyberg to interact with and to react to, but more often than not, the total sound is a joint creation, in which the prepared sax produces interesting sonorities. Ambient sounds and field recordings intervene and integrate in some deeper rhythmic patterns that lay a foundation for the shimmering sax. There are moments when it's hard to describe what's happening, or what you're hearing, yet it remains fascinating and full of variation. 

The presence of voices from streets around the world, together with Dyberg's warm tone, makes this a very human and welcoming album, despite its wealth of industrial noise. Even if not everything works, the end result is strong and very coherent. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Mia Dyberg - Home (Self, 2019) ***½

"Home" is a solo album, or as Dyberg describes it: "a duo with nature". On the first track the nightingale gives the intro, and you only hear the bird singing. On the solo pieces, her improvisations are even more lyrical and melodic than on the other albums. Despite the "duo with nature", the solos are recorded while listening to drummer Rudi Fischerlehner's "15-8 Slum", reviewed on this blog earlier this year. On "Danish Sweepings", she directly interacts with the sounds of the nightingale, the German waterfalls and other creatures. The album was released on October 23. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Mia Dyberg & Asger Thomsen - Spejlrytme (Self, 2019) ***½

The duo with bassist Asger Thomsen is more intimate and mixes composed unisono moments with improvisation and electronic experimentation. The album's title means "Mirror Rhythm". Like on "Ticket!", it contains very short pieces with a short and clear narrative line, and some longer tracks that allow for more development and expansion.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Mia Dyberg & Asger Thomsen - Lyrehale (Self, 2019) ***½

"Lyrehale" consists of one, almost 30-minute track and a shorter one of three minutes. As on "Spejlrytme" the music is very intimate, close even, as if both musicians are playing next to you. In contrast to the previous album, this one is more adventurous, rawer and intense at moments, abrasive even, with moments of pure silence. The short second piece is improvised around an agreed rhythm and it closes the album with more tenderness.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Mia Dyberg & Rudi Fischerlehner - Berg (Self, 2019) ***½

Rudi Fischerlehner is an Austrian percussionist, now also residing in Berlin, like Dyberg. This duo album tries to reflect their impressions of nature in Austria. It was recorded on August 31 of this year with one microphone and released one day later. What you hear is how it was performed, without embellishments or changes. The sound is a little more distant and less crisp as on some of the other albums reviewed here. Yet the playing is good. Fischerlehner is impressive on the long first track, and Dyberg gives him the space he needs to develop his ideas.

With an album whose intention it is to experience the grandness in nature, you would expect a more expansive approach than the one presented, but regardless of the intention, the music is fun to listen to.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Dyberg released one album every month this year, and she will continue to do so till the end of the year. In September, she also participated in a new album by the "Variable Geometry Orchestra", a continuation of her collaborations with Ernesto Rodrigues on his Creative Sources label.

It's rare for a young artist to document her own work in such a systematic way, yet I guess that's the value of today's technology and possibilities of self-production. The interesting aspect of her musical journey is the variety of musicians she played with, offering interesting new perspectives to approach her own sound, which remains remarkably intact. Other duo performances were released with Marcello Magliocchi on drums, Rieko Okuda on piano, Thomas Rohrer on rabeca, and Brad Henkel on trumpet.

Watch a performance with drummer Michael Evans at the Downtown Music Gallery in New York:


Lee said...

Stef, this is an excellent update on everything Dyberg’s been up to this year. I only found out recently she was putting out those monthly albums, and I can’t wait to start digging into them.