Christian Wallumrød Ensemble: Many

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Wallumrød, born in 1971, is one of Norway’s leading contemporary composers and improvisers. With five acclaimed albums for ECM label, 2001-13, followed by several for Hubro, his ensemble is a leading group in improvised music. Influences on it are eclectic – Nordic folk, free jazz and modern composition are obvious, and others cited include Renaissance polyphony.

All compositions on Many are by Wallumrød, which features the same quintet as its Hubro predecessor, Kurzsam & Fulger – percussionist Per Oddvar Johansen, cellist Tove Törngren Brun, trumpeter Eivind Lønning and saxophonist Espen Reinertsen. Each band member works with electronics as well as their own instrument, and Wallumrød draws on his own experiments with electronica in “anti-techno” duo Brutter with his brother Fredrik, as well as the quartet Dans Les Arbres, of which he’s a member.

The acoustic-electronic synthesis is crucial – as is the use of stop-start rhythms which are narrowly out of sync. Acoustic instruments mimic electronic effects, and the compositions draw on techniques made possible only with electronic music. Oh gorge (sic) uses narrowly out of sync rhythms, generated by subtle fluctuations in pulse; Abysm is built around slow-moving glissandi; Dialect begins and ends with a (re-creation of a) telephone engaged tone, which the acoustic instruments imitate, enhanced by vinyl appliqué effects. 50/80 is a haunting juxtaposition of what sounds like piano and vibes, and cello and recorder, full of subtle effects.

It would be invidious to name individual musicians – there are no “solos” as such, and the integration of the ensemble sound is phenomenal. The album is a masterpiece, by one of the most important living improvisers and composers.

Discography
Oh gorge; 50/80; Danszaal; Abysm; Staccotta; El Johnton; Dialect (40.28)
Wallumrød (p, harm, elec); Eivind Lønning (t, elec); Espen Reinertsen (s, rec, elec); Tove Törngren Brun (clo, elec); Per Oddvar Johansen (d, vib, elec). Isitart Studio, August 2019.
Hubro 2631