Mette Henriette: Drifting review – chamber trio’s delicate steps – The Guardian

(ECM)
The Norwegian saxophonist is joined by cellist, Judith Hamann, and pianist, Johan Lindvall, for her long-awaited second album
The Norwegian saxophonist Mette Henriette seems to have become the quintessential ECM Records artist. Her second album features all the hallmarks of Manfred Eicher’s label: beautifully recorded low-volume acoustic music located somewhere equidistant from jazz, folk and contemporary composition, with nothing as vulgar as a drum kit to sully the delicate sonic properties of each instrument.
Henriette’s 2015 debut flirted with a mini orchestra on some tracks but this long-awaited follow-up concentrates on a small chamber trio, which seems to suit her style. Over 15 short tracks, she is joined by Swedish pianist Johan Lindvall and the extraordinary Australian cellist Judith Hamann.
Sometimes all three take great delight in negotiating labyrinthine chord changes: on the title track, Drifting, and the related Indrifting You, they modulate down a major third every few bars, resembling a deliciously slow version of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps played backwards. But other times they linger on a single chord – or even a single note – for an entire song, teasing out unusual textures.
Oversoar and A-Choo both see Henriette and Hamann playing drowsy drones in odd intervals around simple, static piano riffs, eventually converging to play in unison, when they sound like a particularly thick analogue synth voicing. On Oº and Solsnu, the two simply play textural effects – a wheezy, crackling tenor sax reed and a creaky cello combining to create the sound of Arctic ice floes cracking under pressure. On Cadat the three instruments converge to sound like a Caribbean steelpan; on Across the Floor, Henriette flutters and growls over a gentle piano pulse. Best of all might be I Villvind, where a repeated, tumbling piano figure is accompanied by Henriette freaking out in the most gentle, ECM-ish manner imaginable.
Seb Rochford is best known as a drummer for dozens of jazz, soul and punk projects, but his debut as a leader for ECM, A Short Diary, sees him composing eight delicate, hymn-like meditations on the death of his father, performed by the pianist Kit Downes and occasionally augmented by Rochford’s sensitive percussion. Pacific Walker (Orphanology/Bluesanct) is a self-titled album by Michael Tapscott and Isaac Edwards from the psychedelic ambient band Odawas, a rather blissful mash up of clawhammer acoustic guitar, meditative drones and bucolic field recordings. The Descending Spirals of Time (Orphanology/Bluesanct) is a wonderfully disorientating suite of four lengthy tracks by New York artist Florian Ayala-Fauna, AKA uncertain, marrying industrial electronica, field recordings, Gregorian chants and manipulated ambient sounds to create a highly immersive piece of sound art.

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