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North of the North by Mark Pichelin - Xavier Charles - Ivar Grydeland

This Norway-based avant-garde record label generally looms as a source of amazement. Its catalog features cutting-edge Scandinavian artistes and others, where free-jazz improvisation sheds a newer light among other genre-splitting elements. Which brings us to this 2008 acoustic-electric endeavor performed by a trio that implements off-kilter instrumentation to conjure up a lucid feast for the mind's eye.

Six of these tracks were recorded at various locations in Norway by electronics expert Marc Pichelin amid overlays by clarinetist Xavier Charles who also tosses in some harmonica notes on occasion. And the oddness continues with Ivar Grydeland's banjo work. In effect, we have field recordings where the sounds of ocean waves provide the background for visceral dreamscapes while the captain of a ship is tooting the horn. But with Pichelin's keenly placed EFX, the sounds of windswept patterns coalesce with the artist's minimalist-like enactments. It's a polytonal noise-shaping experience as Grydeland will pluck a few banjo strings to reaffirm the acoustic element among other contrasts.

Essentially, the program casts a vibe that captures the trio performing with mother nature. Yet many of these works translucently morph into various dream-states, such as the harrowing and thunderous piece titled "West of the North." Here, the musicians transmit a nightmarish aura, complete with electrostatic buzzing noises that slice through the mammoth wall of sound. It's a movable doomsday machine. However, the trio projects lighthearted aspects as well, but won't let you become too complacent. Overall, it's a persuasive album that is subtly entertaining and overwhelmingly thought-provoking.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Mark Pichelin - Xavier Charles - Ivar Grydeland
  • CD Title: North of the North
  • Genre: Other
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: SOFA Music
  • Musicians: Marc Pichelin (phonographies, electronics), Xavier Charles (clarinet, harmonica), Ivar Grydeland (banjo)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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