CD review

Karoline Wallace – ‘Stiklinger’

Karoline Wallace – Stiklinger
(Øra Fonogram, OF169. CD review by Mike Collins)

A steady stream of new, inventive music from Norway continues to appear on Øra Fonogram, the Trondheim-based label. Stiklinger (meaning ‘cuttings’) is the second release for the label from composer and vocalist Karoline Wallace and is a suite of original pieces arranged for an octet, mixing adventurous improvisation, imaginative writing and recorded ‘cuttings’ from Wallace’s life to compelling effect.

The first sounds are a pulsing, dense chord from the piano, overlaid by a ragged, half-sung half-croaked chant punctuated by pure toned leaps from Wallace. It’s clear from the outset that this is an adventure in sound and ensemble playing. The opener Rosehus develops the pulsing motif, with a swaying rhythm emerging, crackly sound cuttings from tapes of Wallace’s family recordings adding ambience, scampering improvisation weaving darting lines from Thibault Gomez’s piano, Jonas Engel’s clarinet and Wallace’s vocals. Tri loopår starts with honking alto from Engel, quickly engulfed by tumult from the whole band, before the mist suddenly clears and a skipping, staccato, arranged section appears, only to dissolve again into whimsy, ghostly phrases from cello and trumpet, supplied by Ida Nørby and Erik Kimestad Pedersen respectively.

In any one of these pieces it’s possible to discern a sensibility for folk melodies, jazz inflections, a collage like approach to composition, with effects and recordings part of the weave. Plis Rosalin starts as an unadorned melody, Wallace’s vocal accompanied by the simplest of accompaniments from plucked strings and percussion. The melody then veers off into more abstract territory and the atmosphere thickens until a wild sax solo over a rocky, thumping groove leads the ensemble to a climactic chant-like hook before the hubbub subsides.

The inspiration for the suite, Wallace reports, is her grandmother’s garden. The weaving of recordings and voices from her own story make this a very personal document in some ways, but there’s a spirit and intensity to this music given wings by a finely attuned and inventive band. It makes this an absorbing and enjoyable listen.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

LINK: Stiklinger on Bandcamp

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