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Erik Honoré – Unrest


Erik Honoré - UnrestHubro are doing such a great job of cataloguing and drawing to our attention the vibrant neo-jazz/experimental scene in Scandinavia. This latest album from Erik Honoré, following on from 2014’s well-received Heliographs, explores further his experiments in the melding of live improv and sampling technology.

He is an interesting character, most well known for establishing the Punkt Festival in Kristiansand with Jan Bang; the festival has been running now since 2005, and has drawn such diverse artists as Brian Eno, John Paul Jones, David Sylvian and Laurie Anderson, the premise being that the sets are remixed live and then improvised against. It sounds intriguing and clearly this methodology filters into Erik’s solo work.

For Unrest, he has drawn together a great troupe of musicians from the Norwegian improv scene and over eight tracks and about thirty-five minutes, we are drawn into this sketchy, crepuscular landscape with opening track “Surge” setting the scene nicely; a smear of distorted sax, high and low piano droplets, a mournful trumpet — the night is dark and it feels as if we are moving slowly through an abandoned dockyard with the music slinking like a cat, keeping to the shadows, tension crackling in the air, a brooding air of impending something.

It is a wonderfully evocative opener, but the following track introduces us to vocalist Sidsel Endersen who, with a thirty year career to her name, brings exquisite texture to three of the tracks here. On “Abandoned home”, Sidsel’s vocals, accompanied by Erik’s delicate droplets of piano, seem to drift out of her mouth without any effort. I couldn’t help but be reminded of that Francesca Woodman photograph where some mysterious substance is coiling from her open mouth. This leaves a similar sensation and the sparest ghost of a piano lends it an even more magical air.

The other guest who lends some ethereal beauty to the proceedings here is trumpeter Arve Henriksen and his contribution to the title track is just lovely. Against an unnerving screech of prowling strings that seem to be searching in doorways for his elusive trumpet sound, his playing is so delicate that it is hard to believe that a person is producing the sound. It is as if Arve were whispering into the trumpet and this frail smoke trails drifting from the horn, barely formed and ready to dissipate at the first motion of the air.

In fact, in a stroke of incredible analogy, Sidsel’s vocal takes the place of the trumpet on “Blinded Windows” as the distracted vocals are scattered seemingly at random against a build-up of found sounds in the shadows, generating the most spectral of airs. In fact, the tones and moods here are really fine and it is difficult to work out how the process has been produced. Are the artists working together with just a little added sampling, or is it all cut-up snippets that Erik is painstakingly assembling?

Barely present atmospherics drift amongst vocal fragments on “Apparition” and the sensation is that of being underground; the distant creak of a stone shaft, the drips of water echoing somewhere in the darkness, the glimpses of sounds that you can’t quite make out. It is beguiling stuff, but for me focal point is a simple work of looped repetition genius. “Procession” reminds me of The Banshees‘s “Circle” — but with all the negativity and paranoia removed and an uplifting air taking its place — and is so simple but so satisfying that it should go on forever.

Part of the charm is that it sounds as though it were constructed using actual loops of tape, the rhythm of the piece given by the sound of splices going over the heads. It is warm and inviting, and is a fine preparation for the final track. Here we are introduced to Erik’s voice, a fine, warm instrument, low and a little sleepy. “The Park” appears to be a little personal tale of conflict told to Arve’s life-affirming trumpet and the mood is cast by the lyrics “We watched the fire as it turned to dust”. The heavenly backing vocals lend a unified air, but there seems to be resolution at the end and Erik can hopefully sleep easier.

There is a precision and lightness of touch here that makes the whole thing a real pleasure. It sits on that border of dreams and reality, and to be honest, that it is a good place to be. With this album, it becomes just that little bit sweeter.

-Mr Olivetti-

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