Louise Van Den Heuvel: Sonic Hug

Dutch bassist and singer leads woodwinds, piano and drums in a melancholy set mixing modal improvisation and minimalist grooves

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Playing through the seven tracks of Sonic Hug, it evolves like a soundtrack to a Brothers Grimm tale. It’s light and magical – think enchanted forest – but then it’s intimidating, brooding, dramatic and dark. 

Hold Me opens with a fragile and vulnerable vocal but then it switches to a groovy bass and drums foundation that gives way to punchy piano, haunting backing vocals and a wonderful clarinet solo. It keeps you off balance, tempting you to want to hear more.

This is an album for the curious, those happy with walking the untrod path, because that is exactly where the hidden treasures are found, and this album is definitely a treasure. It manages to cram so much creativity into its 40 minutes that you must revisit the whole experience again. I’m currently on my fourth listen and I’m still hearing new layers.

There is something magical and surprising about the whole album, be it the bass solo on Luchtsteen, the tranquillity on Innerland (which deserves six minutes of anybody’s time – it’s beautiful) or the way the music shifts from Kwartleven with its mood of a beast stepping from the murk to the lightness of final track Blauwe Velden.

Van den Heuvel is a something of a bass innovator and it shows throughout the album. The instrument often takes centre stage, and her choices of tone are wonderful. It’s never muddy or thick; it’s bright, and carries the music brilliantly, showing that it sometimes takes more talent to put an instrument in the correct place than to show it off. I really enjoyed the immersive feel of this album, the way it draws you in and casts its spell.

Discography
Hold Me: Kusjeswekker; Luchtsteen; Pingi; Innerland; Kwartleven; Blauwe Velden (40.00)
Van Den Heuvel (v, b); Sam Comerford (ts, af, bcl, cl); Hendrik Lasure (p); Daniel Jonkers (d, pc). Ghent, Belgium, 2023.
Werf Holland WERF242LP