CD reviews

CD REVIEW: Hubro label round-up

Tony Dudley-Evans listens to five recent albums on the Norwegian Hubro label:

Every so often a package arrives from the Hubro Label in Norway. I really enjoy receiving these and listening to the very broad range of the music that the label presents. I also really appreciate a number of aspects of the label’s output: the CDs come in an attractive package with good artwork and with a couple of pages of background about the artists and the music.

I also like the fact that the length of the CDs is shorter than your average CD length at between 35 and 40 minutes. I sometimes think that CDs are too long at 60 to 70 minutes, and I miss the length of LPs with about 20 minutes on both sides. I like to listen to a whole album and find that the concentration and time needed to concentrate to a whole 70 minute CD can be quite demanding. So the length of Hubro albums really suits me.

In recent months five albums have arrived at my home address; they come without any covering letter and there seems to be no pressure to review them, or to book the bands involved. Unusual, but refreshing! Here I shall write a brief summary of the music and give my opinion of it.

Geir Sundstøl – Brødøl
Geir Sundstøl is a new name to me, but he is clearly well established in Norway. His main instrument is the slide guitar, but he is credited with playing 14 other instruments during this recording. His use of the slide guitar gives the music a feel of country music, or at least alt-country, but the album is much more varied than that might imply. Apparently, Sundstøl wanted it to be a sad album and there is a kind of melancholy air throughout, but the textures provided by the various instruments in the band make the music very rich and full of interesting combinations of sounds. Trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer plays beautifully on two tracks, Sanskriti Sheresta adds nicely gentle tabla rhythms on most tracks, and drummer Erland Dahlen gives it all a strong pulse as well as joining bass player Mats Eilertsen in adding some wordless vocals to several tracks. The outstanding track is a combination of Brian Eno’s and David Bowie’s Warszaw and John Coltrane’s Alabama, which works really well.

Kim Myhr – pressing clouds passing crowds
This album is essentially a collaboration between Kim Myhr on 12-string guitar and the poet and spoken word artist Caroline Bergvall with support from drummer Ingar Zach and the Montreal based string quartet Quatour Bozzini. The interaction between the guitar and spoken word is extremely effective and the words written by Bergvall herself are engaging and occasionally quite moving. Neither dominates and there is a true integration between the two and the gentle backing from the quartet and drummer. The mood is, however, very sombre and tends to stick to just that one mood.

Building Instrument – Mangelen Min
Building Instrument is the name of a Bergen-based trio with Mari Kvien Brunvolli, mostly on vocals, but also electronics, zither and omnichord, Åsmund Weltzien, on synths and electronics, and Øyvind Hegg-Lunde, drums and electronics. The name of the CD, Mangelen Min, apparently means in Norwegian something like ‘the thing missing in my life’, and there is a slightly mysterious air about the music. It is electronic with catchy rhythms and engaging melodies that I find quite charming. The trio is at pains to acknowledge the role of the sound engineer, Anders Bjelland and the person who mixed the album, Jørgen Træen and it is clear that the trio and the engineers have worked together to create the album from a range of material recorded in the studio. It is, however, Brunvalli’s vocals that really impress, sometimes in songs in Norwegian with that characteristic Nordic way of phrasing, and sometimes as a third instrumental sound working with the synths and drums. She has a tremendous range and in the high register she reminds me just a little of Indian singing. Overall, this is an impressive album.

Moon Relay – IMI
Moon Relay is essentially an experimental rock quartet from Oslo whose music draws on the machine-aesthetic fun of the ’70s. The music is fast, loud and almost orchestral in scale and the repetitive nature of the rhythms do bring up images of machines. But for me, it was all too repetitive; it was rhythmic, yes, but these rhythms were rigid and the music did not really swing. The titles are all based on particular characters, so that, for example Track 1 is called #´`´`´`´ and Track 2 is (^)II. The personnel is Daniel Meyer Grøvold, guitar and other instruments, Håvard Volden, guitar, bass and synths, Ola Høyer, bass, and Christian Naess, drums.

Møster – States of Minds
This is a double CD by a kind of Norwegian super group led by saxophonist Kjetil Møster and featuring players from the Norwegian heavy rock scene, notably guitarist Hans Magnus Ryan from Motorpsycho, a psychedelic rock band from Trondheim, and drummer Kenneth Kapstad and Nikolai Haengsle on bass and electronics. Norwegian groups have often combined jazz and elements of heavy or psychedelic rock very successfully and this band is a good example of that approach. Leader Kjetil Møster plays his saxophone through a synthesiser but his playing does not dominate; it is rather the guitar and synthesiser that create an exciting, full on and high energy sound. Live it must be a tremendous band, but it does not work quite as well on a CD.

LINK: Hubro label releases

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