Swedish percussionist Erik Carlsson in a solo work using multi-tracking to create a set of composition ranging from ominous environments to quirky abstractions, an excellent collection of modern percussion pieces.
The Bird And The Giant
Label: Creative Sources
Released in: Portugal
"[...] This piece of writing is actually something commissioned from me by the Swedish percussionist Erik Carlsson to accompany the release of his second solo album on the Creative Sources label. It kind of reads like a review though, and it includes my honest thoughts about the album, though maybe it glows with praise perhaps more than it might if it was an non-commissioned piece. I still think its worth posting though, and given how light on content these pages have been recently, lets face it anything is better than more nothing! The text is as follows then:
The role of the solo improviser recording an album is always a difficult one. Inevitably (s)he will find himself in one of a few scenarios, either sticking to the limitations of the chosen instrumentation, trying hard to stretch those limits out via extended, unfamiliar technique, or utilising recording technology to bypass the restrictions of playing alone. In many ways, on his new, second solo album called The bird and the giant, the Swedish improvising percussionist Erik Carlsson manages to take all three approaches at different times.
There are five tracks here, or six if you wait and seek out the hidden bonus at the end. Each of them uses multitracking techniques to layer separately recorded, but resolutely unedited parts over one another. So we hear Carlsson improvising live, but alongside himself, perhaps several times over in places. This then avoids the inevitable restrictions that being a human being with only so many limbs presents the percussionist, but still the music has a certain vibrancy and energy to it. It doesn't sound like a set of contrived pieces. Carlsson is one of the rare breed amongst modern improvising percussionists that is not afraid to make music by hitting things, perhaps playing percussion closer to how it was originally intended to be played than many of his contemporaries. His playing exudes a certain confidence. He is not afraid to strike objects, form patterns with his sounds, let tones hang in the air and slowly decay, and yet he also understands the colour and textures possible with his battery of sounds very well. His work on this album is sensual and richly detailed, but he has found these qualities through a combination of intuitive playing in the moment and a finely structured compositional integrity pulled together across the separate tracks.
There is a wide range of sounds put to use. The opening "Could be emotional" indeed does fill you with a range of sentiments, its dark, slow, struck metal sounds coming together in clouds of rich colour. Sounds repeat themselves over and over, and the sensation is of deathly slow clockwork, but even with the closest, most attentive of listening it isn't clear if there actually are any patterns to be found in the music, or if the brain, tricked by what it expects when it hears percussion like this tries to seek out an order to the sounds that isn't there at all.
The following "Heavy rest" works in a similar way, but the tempo raises very slightly and the rich sonorities are replaced by quick, abrupt sounds created by killing any decay dead immediately by hand. So we hear little clusters of sound that flow freely, but with a jagged, jerky intensity. If Derek Bailey played percussion then he may have sounded like this. "Hope, perhaps feelings" is the title of the track that follows, and here we witness a return to the almost ritualistic sobriety of the opening track, slow simple sounds turning slowly, but this time with the unmistakable rich warmth of bowed metal combining with deep, softly struck metallic tones breaking the surface that the music wallows just beneath.
"The Dead Spirit" is a far more complex scattering of tiny percussive sounds- metal chimes and wooden clicks. Here the multitracking comes into its own, generous flurries of gathered minutae, a garden full of windchimes on a windy day throwing dense combinations of shapes into the air. Again we wonder if there are patterns in there, do we hear the same thing circling around us again and again or does the mind play tricks? Following the highly recogniseable sounds of the first four pieces, we are suddenly thrown into a completely different sound world by the aptly named fifth track, "Something else somewhere". Here we are not so much confronted, but gently caressed by the slightest slither of grey hiss and shimmer, more reminiscent of a detuned shortwave radio than anything we might expect from percussion. How this thin, gaseous layer of sound is created I'm not sure, perhaps the surface of objects lightly agitated by vibrations, perhaps something else, but the piece comes as a gentle reflection after the fine details of the previous track and as a clear reaction to the more traditionally inspired playing elsewhere on the album.
Wait patiently and a sixth track appears, untitled, but indeed something else somewhere. This ghost of a piece is related in form to the previous track, more cold shivers of sound rather than any percussive structure, perhaps an even more cleanly defined than the last set of sounds, though more impatient in its need to stop and start and create tension through gradual layering than the fifth track's more static dynamic.
This is a fine album of carefully constructed, but also somehow partly unconsidered works by a finely talented musician. The six pieces each make clear musical statements, separate to one another and yet they form a well rounded, nicely balanced suite when brought together. As good an example of what can be done with simple percussion and just a sprinkle of recording trickery as we have heard in a while."-Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear
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Label: Creative Sources
Catalog ID: CS190
Squidco Product Code: 15037
Packaging: Jewel Tray
Recorded at Vindruvan, Stockholm in July 2010 by Erik Carlsson.
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1. Could be emotional 10:38
2. Heavy rest 9:06
3. Hope, perhaps feelings 8:24
4. The dead spirit 6:41
5. Something else somewhere 8:21
6. The Bird and The Giant 7:16