J. Peter Schwalm, Arve Henriksen: Neuzeit

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The German electro-acoustic composer and pianist Schwalm, whose CV includes a six-year working partnership with Brian Eno, first met the Norwegian trumpeter and sound-sculptor Henriksen at the 2006 Punktfestival in Kristiansand. The idea of a collaboration between them has long been in the air, but – ironically enough – did not come to fruition until Covid-19 dictated that their project be realised through phone calls and email exchanges, with Schwalm then mixing, editing and remastering the music at a Frankfurt studio.

The result is this distinctive suite, embracing both the electronically fired energy of the title track, where Henriksen offers multi-tracked voice as well as trumpet, and the now gently turned, now shuffle-enlivened Raumzeit. As Paul Bley remarked, power can come from a quiet place, and Henriksen followers in particular will not want to miss this music. In my review of his two-CD The Timeless Nowhere I remarked on an “extraordinary command of plaintive tone and painterly texture”. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but things get even more extraordinary here.

The music bears special witness to the trumpeter’s uncanny ability to move from practically flute-like sonorities to both the most compressed and inward-oriented of muted utterance and contrastingly open and expansive tones and phrases. Sample his work within the linear momentum of Raumzeit and Wellenzeit, or hear the concluding and hauntingly reflective Zeitnah, one of the most astutely measured and piquant rubato pieces Henriksen has recorded to date.

Schwalm sculpts a spacious range of seemingly understated but deftly potent figures: he both shifts between and blends dampened ostinato pulses, minimalist acoustic and electronic touches, clear-cut single notes and dissolving overtones, percussive layers of assertively textured electronic rhythm and a lyrically taut pianism.

On the back of the CD sleeve are the words “Directions in Music by J. Peter Schwalm”. I remember a similar phrase being used about the music of Miles Davis at the time of the late 1960s In A Silent Way release, subsequently documented in full detail in the three-CD box set The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions. It’s more than a touch interesting to compare this striking achievement by Schwalm and Henriksen with what Davis (and producer Teo Macero) laid down all those years ago.

Discography
Blütezeit; Suchzeit; Neuzeit; Raumzeit; Schonzeut;Unzeit; Wellenzeit; Zeitnah (48.55 )
Schwalm (p, elec, programming); Henriksen (t, pc, v). Frankfurt, c. 2020.
RareNoise Records 125