Marc Pichelin/Xavier Charles/Ivar Grydeland

North of the North
SOFA 525

Creating an imaginary aural landscape from an existing sphere, Marc Pichelin, Xavier Charles and Ivar Grydeland mutate and reconfigure sounds collected on Norway’s Skjervøy and Arnøy islands using their own instruments, electronics and phonographies. The result reflects the landscape without zeroing in on any exact time or place.

French clarinetist Charles and Norwegian banjoist Grydeland don’t fully expose themselves instrumentally until this nine-track CD’s fourth track. Only then are flat-lined reed smears and clanking banjo licks audible. Before that, and intermittently throughout the rest of the session, French sound artist Pichelin’s abrasive electronic pulsations and splutters plus close-miked and diffused sound samples dominate.

With obvious actualities made up of gull chirps, ship motor rumbles, boat horn hoots, fishermen’s shouts and the continuous lapping of water against the shoreline and ships hulls, the challenge is to create sound pictures that capture more than travel snapshots. The three do so vividly by bonding instruments’ timbres to the existing textures. Grydeland’s arpeggio-rich string plinks are contrapuntally matched with foaming and splashing waves for instance, while one male-female dialogue is underscored and commented upon by Charles’ split tones and intense vibrato. Elsewhere broken octave improvisation is divided among discordant reed overtones, clinking banjo licks and quivering electronic loops.

By the end, as aural wind and water reflections prevail, the players have buried themselves within the islands’ sound topography. The artificial places exposed are now as sonically real as the islands which they reflect.

— Ken Waxman

— For MusicWorks Issue #105