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Friday, March 1, 2024

Signe Emmeluth - A Bonanza of Creativity

By Eyal Hareuveni

Danish, Oslo-based hyperactive alto sax player Signe Krunderup Emmeluth seems to be all over the map. She leads her Danish-Norwegian quartet Emmeluth’s Aooeba, co-leads the Owl duo (with partner guitarist Karl Bjorå) and the new quintet Bonanza of Doom; She plays in Mats Gustafsson’s Fire! Orchestra, Paal Nilssen’s Love’s Circus, Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra, Andreas Røysum Ensemble and the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra; and tours with Belgian baritone sax player Hanne De Backer and with The Ex’ guitarists - Terrie Hesserls and Andy Moor.

Signe Emmeluth - BANSHEE (Motvind, 2024) 

The Norwegian Vossajazz Festival commissioned the composition BANSHEE from Emmeluth and it was premiered by a seven-musician ensemble in the 2022 edition of the festival, and later performed in other venues in Norway. A banshee is a mythical figure from Irish folklore that heralds death, destruction and grief with a shrill scream and powerful voice, but Emmeluth sees this composition as a “fearless tale of presence and moments” and a way to come into contact with the time that flies by, as death reminds us of life. By composing BANSHEE, Emmeluth asks what we want to experience while we exist. What did we leave behind? Are we actually present?

The ensemble featured uncompromising and experienced female musicians who worked together for the first time, and all sing and scream - Emmeluth on alto sax and electronics, Maja S. K. Ratkje on vocals, electronics and violin, Guro Skumsnes Moe (of MoE) on electric bass and double bass, Heiða Karine Jóhannesdóttir Mobeck (who played in Emmeluth’s Spacemusic Ensemble) on tuba and electronics, (Lithuanian, Oslo-based) Guostė Tamulynaitė on piano and synth, Anne "Efternøler" Andersson on trumpet, and Jennifer Torrence on percussion and vibes.

The album BANSHEE is a revised version of the composition, produced into a vinyl-length album. At times, it sounds like it updates the rebellious yet uplifting spirit of another, iconic female ensemble, Les Diaboliques (Swiss pianist Irene Schweizer, French double bass player-vocalist Joëlle Léandre, and British vocal artistMaggie Nicols). It is a cycle of 13 restless and intense fireworks that investigate, in their seductive, subversive and pixie-like manner, the physical aspects of communal music with harmonious voices. At the same time, this composition also offers acrobatic juggling with elements of free jazz, free improv, contemporary music, the rhythms and trance tendencies of techno music and noise.

BANSHEE will throw you into a wild and totally unpredictable ride made of the wild imagination of Emmeluth. Most likely, at the end of it, you will still ask yourself what was this really about and how did you get here.

Emmeluth's Amoeba - Nonsense (Moserobie, 2024) 

Nonsense is the third official album of Emmeluth’s Aooeba (Emmeluth released independently a solo-out, limited edition of 25 discs of live performances from 2022 and 2023). The quartet features the same line-up since its inception - Emmeluth is the composer, Norwegian Bjorå and drummer Ole Mofjell with Danish pianist Christian Balvig. The album is released by the Swedish label Moserobie, run by sax player Jonas Kullhammar, who plays with Emmeluth in Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra.

The dynamics of the quartet are powerful and stress the complex and restless yet democratic choreography of Emmuleth’s musical dances and games. Emmeluth’s Amoeba plays with fast and almost telepathic interplay but leaves enough space for individual solos. It often sounds as if it is about to collapse on the verge of chaos, but always keeps its cohesive and coherent core (check the opening piece “Chic Blip” and the last one “Are you cross”). Emmuleth, with her idiosyncratic language and passionate sax playing, is clearly the driving force of this quartet. You can sense how Emmeluth’s compositional ideas are enriched by the quartet's concise, sometimes even subversive improvisations. and how these pieces radiate boundless energy and ecstatic feelings. But Emmeluth’s Aooeba also shines also on the more introspective piece like “Flickering”, or the poetic ballad “Zelda”.

Bonanza of Doom - s/t (Sheep Chase, 2023) 

The quintet Bonanza of Doom features Emmuleth, doubling here on synth, guitarist Bjorå and drummer Mofjell of Emmeluth’s Amoeba, bassist Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard (of Plot Monkey and Delish), who also credited with noise, and drummer Martin Langlie, who doubles on modular synth and did the cover artwork (and plays in the folk ensemble Valkyrien Allstars and the folk-metal band Gåte). Emmuleth, again, is the force behind this monster-like unit. This quintet recorded its self-titled album at Hotbox in Oslo in July 2022.

The music of Bonanza of Doom is more raw and wild. It is a volatile and uncompromising brew of free jazz, punk, post-rock, no-wave and noise, pushed to its extremes. Bonanza of Doom takes its time to build massive walls of trance and alien-like drone sounds (check the 19-minute “bonanza of doom (don't die)”), relying on repetitive, hypnotic riffs and pulses and vintage synth sounds. There is something liberating in total surrender to such manic sonic attacks with so much power and energy that guarantee to kick off all your gloom and doom visions (but will leave you exhausted).


Anonymous said...

Don’t know her but will later today!