Sigurd Hole: Roraima

The bassist and a band including saxophone, violin, accordion and Hardanger fiddle offer a musical reaction to the depletion of the Brazilian rain forest


Each of Sigurd Hole’s Elvesang discs is uniquely special, reflecting his wide-ranging interests and ambitions as an artist. Conceptually at least Roraima may be his most ambitious to date. Taking its name from a northern region of the Brazilian Amazon, this beautifully produced set features a festival piece commissioned by Oslo World in 2020.

A meditation on the earth’s fragile biodiversity, Roraima is also an expression of Hole’s profound hopes for change. Its narrative arc is in part elucidated by a series of evocative field recordings from American soundscape artist and ecologist Bernie Krause. While this might suggest certain parallels to the way in which Hermeto Pascoal used nature as an inspiration, Hole’s stellar ensemble is decidedly Nordic in character.

If the prevailing modes are chamberish and impressionistic, the instrumentation is sufficiently flexible to evoke a sense of the lushness of the forest and its existential challenges. It’s almost impossible to pick highlights from a work of such strong cumulative impact; even the shortest interlude is a vital piece of the mosaic.

It opens with a mesmerisingly beautiful backdrop of birdsong and insect chatter. As our ears slowly attune Hole’s bowed bass can be heard interacting with the environment. As Seim rises out of the ensemble on The Mothokari Sun Being he provides a moment of spine-tingling drama. His wailing tenor cries amid the mechanical clatter of The Words Of Merchandise graphically depict the region’s manmade devastation, while The Great Mourning Or Roraima and The Falling Sky hint at the tragically inevitable conclusions if current trajectories aren’t reversed. It closes with more sounds of the forest and it’s hard not to feel a sense of loss as the sounds fade into silence.

Powerful, poetic, and entirely free of bathos, Roraima is a major statement from an increasingly vital artist. 

The Yarori Ancestors: The Hutukara Forest: The Poriporiri Moon Being; The Mothokari Sun Being; The Paths Of Light I; The Evil Në Wari And Xawara Beings; The Presentation Dance; The Paths Of Light II; The Xapiri; The Jaguar Being Iramari; The Amoa Hi Song Tree; The Paths Of Light III; The Flowers Of Dream; The Words Of Merchandise; The Shaman’s Death; The Great Mourning Of Roraima; The Falling Sky (78.00)
Hole (b) with Trygve Seim (ts, ss); Frode Haltli (acc); Håkon Aase (vn); Helga Mhyr (v, Hardanger fiddle); Tanja Orning (clo); Per Oddvar Johansen (d, pc). Oslo, 29 October 2020.
Elvesang 006