Second album of adventurous free-jazz from Scandinavian quartet!
Without wishing to patronise our Scandinavian friends it's true to say most music fans in the UK would be hard-pushed to name any currently active Danish musicians. Sadly, that's more a reflection of Britain's blinkered outlook than it is on Denmark's musical reputation. What they probably don't know is that Scandinavia has an increasing reputation for producing world-class improvised jazz. Recent releases on label's such as Hubro being just the tip of this particular iceberg.
Signe Emmeluth is an example of a Danish musician breaking new ground at the coal-face of modern jazz. The young alto saxophonist, now based in Oslo, leads a quartet, collectively known as Emmeluth's Amoeba whose debut album, Polyp, was released in 2018. They've recently released a follow up Chimaera, which takes their music into new, ever more adventurous territory. Let's be clear, this is not music for the faint-hearted, but if you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll no doubt relish the journey this album will take you on.
Opening track 'Squid Circles' begins with Signe's lone saxophone making short sharp runs and closely clustered notes, gradually becoming more melodic and languid before the rest of the band begin to join in, adding discordant piano chords and scattering drums. The result may be disorientating but is equally hypnotic and intriguing once you allow yourself to be drawn in.
'AB' allows Emmeluth to push the saxophone to its limits with high pitched squeals designed to disorientate. The track evolves into a cartoonish romp that owes as much to Scott Bradley as it does to exponents of free-jazz. At the six-minute mark piano, guitar and saxophone conspire to conjure the image of a claustrophobic city soundscape - traffic rumbles, sirens wail and people rush about their business. It's quickly shifting mutations such as these that characterise Chimaera. At times cerebral, other times calm and soothing, occasionally humorous, but only ever a few notes away from being primal, even brutal and violent.
'Velvet' sees the quartet move into more impressionistic areas, mixing Debussy-eque textures with tinkling cocktail jazz piano. For all its calm, soothing feel there still lurks an ominous darkness just under the surface. These tensions and dynamics are further explored as the album branches out into more audacious and chaotic forms, free of cliché and full of honest, raw expressive emotion. It all makes for a brave and challenging record from a refreshingly uncompromising artist.
Emmeluth's Amoeba are -
Signe Emmeluth – alto saxophone and compositions
Christian Balvig – piano
Karl Bjorå – guitar
Ole Mofjell – drums
Click here for Øra Fonogram Records.