CD REVIEW: Øystein Blix – Conditions

Øystein Blix – Conditions
(Losen Records LOS 156-2. Review by Jon Carvell)

Tromsø trombonist Øystein Blix’s new disc Conditions features guitarist Kristian Svalestad Olstad and drummer Aleksander Kostopolous – both doubling on electronics – alongside the Mimas Male Choir in a forty-minute, ten-movement work, inspired by the political and financial struggles of musicians and artists in modern day Italy.

Safe to say then, this is not populist commercialism. Blix’s breathy and baleful tone permeates this album of challenging, large scale music. In Anche Cultura and Asse Sorri his lines float eerily above the dark timbres of the choir, often with ambient samples triggering in the background. However, these moments of pensive reflection stand in stark contrast to the distortion guitars, quick-fire drums and imposing choral fortissimi of Salvare I’italia, and the electronic experimentalism of Intrata with its echoes of 20th century modernist Edgard Varèse.

Alto Della Nomino features a call and response not dissimilar to Jan Garbarek’s work with the Hilliard Ensemble, whilst in Sticazzi disparate spoken fragments align gradually into a chant, over which Kostopolous solos frantically in a conflicting meter.

Oddly enough, this bizarre combination of textures and compositional influences is effective, and benefits from repeated listening. Although Blix’s choice of subject matter is a curious one, he does achieve a musically convincing and compelling bleakness.

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