Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Ankersmit/Dafeldecker/Johansson - Ny Musikk (SÅJ, 2022)

This album of ‘new music’ was recorded back in 2010, but due to the respective talents of the trio presented herein it sounds totally fresh. Thomas Ankersmit is better known these days for his work on the Serge rather than the saxophone. His previous two albums on Shelter Press, 2018s Homage to Dick Raaijmakers and last year's Perceptual Geography which he dedicated to electronic pioneer Maryanne Amacher are among my very favorite non-jazz releases in the past handful of years. Likewise bassist Werner Dafeldecker is known as much for his compositional avant-garde as he is for free improvisation. I’m still fairly smitten with his amazing 2020 release Parallel Darks. He featured here on another great trio release with Burkhard Beins and John Butcher earlier this year that provides a great contrast to this one, so I highly recommend making some time for a Dafeldecker listening party. And speaking of listening parties, I’d just been revisiting the two archival Bergisch-Brandenburgisches Quartett SÅJ releases from the last couple of years when I saw this release show up in my Bandcamp feed. Sven-Åke has been quietly releasing gem after gem on the digital platform, including new and archival releases to this reviewer’s eternal delight. On “Ny Musikk” these men subvert the disposition of a classic saxophone trio and deliver something strange and absorbing.

Recorded on a cold Dec 3rd (the titles reference local temperatures at the time) at Cafeteatret in Olso during the Grønland Kammermusikkfestival, the trio presented five relatively brief pieces. The first track “-11oC'' sets the stage for the chilly tone fields to come. Its long, sustained sounds (bowed and blown) and blurry textures yield some sublime moments of superposition. On the following “-13oC'' the track coagulates around irregular, piercing sounds, themselves evocative of early electro-acoustic music, before the piece really groans to life across the second half. On “-7oC'' violent shudders usher in foghorn missives and machine room grima. These ragged sounds drift through gloomy spaces like twitchy patches of reflected light. There’s an uneasy steadiness to the piece that’s organic and foundational but oddly nonspecific and evolving. On the warmest track “2oC'', reedy screeches are dispatched beneath brambles of thorny percussion. Long warbling tones radiate and collide, relying on duration to set the stage for more fleeting, ephemeral phenomena. The final piece “-10oC'' pairs high pitched tones with heavy crackle and groaning textures. The trio play at the very edges of their instruments, only occasionally does a stray sound present in a familiar way.

This is really one of the better minimal albums I’ve heard in quite a while , perhaps you could even call it ‘free minimalism’, but I don’t mean that it’s necessarily quiet or sparse (as anyone who listens to minimalism knows). It’s definitely not a type of music that is made easily palatable, and the glut of attempts at this sort of thing either fall flat or aren’t interesting- happy to say that’s not the case here. It is however a music where the participants’ discipline and level of experience can really shine through, and vice versa. These guys are great at this, and it’s apparent to the discerning listener just how seasoned and well versed they are. The trio maintain a steady focus throughout and approach both their instruments and interactions with a calibrated restraint that gives the music a clear sense of progression and dynamics. A very worthwhile listen if you’re after something different.

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