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Friday, March 24, 2023

Mette Henriette – Drifting (ECM, 2023)


By Troy Dostert

Norwegian saxophonist Mette Henriette released a startling debut album back in 2015, after which she more or less disappeared, at least in terms of recording, until her long-awaited follow-up, Drifting. Anyone figuring that she might use this hiatus to reinvent herself would be mistaken, however. Her sophomore release continues in the same vein as its predecessor, with an elliptical, less-is-more aesthetic in which the silences speak as loudly as the notes that are played. And the chamber trio format also remains, once again with pianist Johan Lindvall, but with Judith Hamann taking over the cello duties from Katrine Schiøtt this time around. This release may be somewhat less ambitious overall, as there is no second disc of material utilizing a larger ensemble, as was the case on the 2015 album. But maybe this is all to the good, as it allows a more concentrated glimpse of Henriette’s distinctive approach to her instrument and her spartan compositional style.

Relying on figures and sketches rather than lengthy, developed pieces, the 15 tracks here clock in at a relatively brisk 43 minutes. Several are shorter than two minutes, such as the captivating opener, “The 7 th,” which invites the listener into Henriette’s sound-world in such an unassuming manner that the moment slips past almost too quickly. Just a wisp of melody, delicately traced by all three musicians without adornment or elaboration, and then it’s over. “Cadat” is just as elusive, with Henriette’s fragile, simple phrases floating atop Lindvall’s patient upper-register musings and just the faintest high-pitched textures from Hamann.

The longer tracks do possess a certain appeal as well, especially “Oversoar,” in which Henriette and Hamann’s diaphanous excursions intertwine mysteriously alongside Lindvall’s pointillist accompaniment. And “Indrifting you” also possesses a lovely aspect, as Henriette’s lyricism finds its way above the subtle restraint of her partners. While there is no question this is an ECM recording—one can almost feel the Nordic chill emanating from the austere production only Manfred Eicher can provide—it is Henriette’s underlying warmth, particularly in the lower reaches of her horn, that prevents the music from icing over. While some listeners may have hoped to see Henriette branch out a bit and explore new terrain, Drifting remains an inviting and sometimes entrancing recording.


Anonymous said...

Listened to it twice over the past few days, but with minor exceptions this is as unrewarding as it gets in improvisational terms.
I loved a few of the sounds they created, but it was never as entrancing or interesting as a minimalistic approach should be, but rather tiresome.....
In the end...a disappointment