Erland Dahlen: Racoons

The answer to his label's question may be negative but Dahlen's cinematic compositions might not have existed without jazz


After four remarkable solo albums for the trendsetting indie-jazz label Hubro, Norwegian drummer/composer Erland Dahlen follows Bushman’s Revenge across to Karisma’s new Is It Jazz? imprint. His discography of 300+ recordings touches almost every conceivable point on the spectrum of contemporary music, making him perhaps the perfect embodiment of the kind of stylistic flux that the new label sets out to celebrate.

Always at the heart of Dahlen’s solo projects is his vintage Slingerland black gold drum kit. He lays down powerful trance-like grooves, and the rhythm tracks are then overlaid with atmospheric keyboards, guitars and custom-made percussion instruments. With their sweeping harmonic shifts and plunging bass-lines, his often cinematic compositions are pure catnip for fans of Jaga Jazzist, Eivind Aarset and regular musical partner Nils Petter Molvær.

Racoons is very much of a piece with its predecessors, though I detect some subtle shifts. Cooler and a little more spacious, the seven pieces seem to run together as a suite. The album opens with the evocative ambient haze of Sun pt.1, Dahlen’s mallets, cymbals and chimes offset by a darker guitar-led drone. The mood carries through into Stride, Dahlen’s drums finally exploding in ecstatic release.

The chiming guitars and wordless vocals of Auto are an excursion into more melodic terrain, while Dahlen’s trademark musical saw adds its spooky presence to Slow and Foggy. Mud veers between tribal drumming and minimalism, while the closing Sun pt. 2 could be a chilling portent of environmental catastrophes to come.

Beautifully recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio with the customary post-production of Jens Petter Nilsen and Hallvard W. Hagen of Xploding Plastix, Dahlen’s place as a leading light within the new Scandinavian creative music scene has never felt more secure.

Sun pt.1; Stride; Auto; Slow; Mud; Foggy; Sun pt.2 (37.28)
Dahlen (d, pc, kyb, org, elec, elg, v). Oslo, March 2023.
Is It Jazz? Records KAR268CD