This is the debut recording by Danish composer and drummer Hyllested – and what a debut it is. Darling River comes over as a deeply meditative seven-piece suite, mixing composition, improvisation and electronic sound processing to altogether mesmeric effect. It’s a most gentle, yet questing and extremely courageous record: hence the five stars.
Hyllested has brought together some fine players for his project: the full-toned, rhythmically strong and space-conscious Tranberg won Denmark’s prestigious Ben Webster Prize in 2019, for example, and Krogh’s warmly intimate yet restrained guitar figures can stand comparison with those of Jakob Bro.
However, it’s important to note that while there is much excellent playing, the music is not about “chops” in any traditional sense of that term. Think early Paul Bley and Loren Connors – or Anton Webern and Gavin Bryars – and you’ll have an idea of the overall slo-mo ethos here, the way the music fashions its minimalist, nuanced melodic arcs with the utmost ad libitum patience and poetic precision.
In his press release, Hyllested instances the potent drummer (and fellow Dane) Stefan Pasborg as one of his chief elective affinities, but for me, Hyllested’s feathery, sparely employed cymbal touches and overall dynamic subtlety brought the late Jon Christensen to mind. He leaves plenty of space for his shape-shifting, crystal-cut yet breathing blends of trumpet and saxophone, piano, celeste and guitar, string quartet (at its most naked in the elegaic opening passages of Dreams And Blues For What Could Have Been) and sound processing to weave their magic.
If you Google the guitarist, Rasmus Oppenhagen Krogh, you can access a good, shortish session featuring most of the players on the date, including the Halvcirkel String Quartet, and YouTube has video clips of all the titles here plus three short related Hiatus pieces by Hyllested. I very much look forward to this young Dane’s next project.
Darling River; Holding; Dream Beings; Ryder (Celeste Rebuild); Dreams And Blues For What Could Have Been; Yondershore; Goodyear (46.34)
Kasper Tranberg (t, c); August Rosenbaum (p, cel); Lars Greve (saxes, cl); Valdemar Kragelund, Jacob Littauer (elec); Rasmus Oppenhagen Krogh (g, elg); Laurits Hyllested (d, comp, arr); Halvcirkel String Quartet: Bettina Miral Eaki (vn); Arsema Asghodom (vn); Mika Persdotter (vla); Nicole Hogstrand (clo). Denmark, c. 2019.