Ivar Grydeland & Henry Kaiser

In the Arctic Dreamtime
Rune Gramofon RCD 2211

Taking advantage of the non-guitar sounds that can be coaxed out of electric guitars, American Henry Kaiser and Norwegian Ivar Grydeland commingle novel perceptions and technical acumen to create this eventful CD. This first-time duet with no prior preparation and no overdubbing was recorded in one session as a soundtrack for Ellsworths flyveekspedition, a silent film about Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. Austere and hypnotic, textures on the five tracks allude to salient genres as well as other stringed instruments’ intonation without nullifying individual thrusts.

Producing timbres that suggest dulcimers, sitars, electronic programming and every sort of guitar, the two constantly and intricately stretch sonic definitions with references to rock, ambient, microtonal and improvised music. Taking cues from the time-stretching and otherness Amundsen experienced during his North and South Pole expeditions, also present are allusions reflecting bleak landscapes and shamanism. With Grydeland part of exploratory bands like Huntsville and Dans Les Arbres and Kaiser having played with everyone from ROVA to Fred Frith, time and rhythmic dislocation is expected.

Cumulative programmed drones whoosh and echo throughout. Like the intermittent patterns of aurora borealis lights they appear and disappear on “Roald Amundsen 1925”, the first track, making voltage rumbles a constant leitmotif, Metal-like distorted feedback is quickly countered by fleet finger picking, as string twangs, clicks and frails bleed into one another. Other track narratives are equally diffuse “To the North Pole” emphasizes dripping icicle-like single-note expression as well as raging snow storms of tremolo shakes and splintering ice-floe-like crunches. The concluding “Into the Arctic Dreamtime” diffuses bent-note excesses with reflective microtonal plinks and folksy strums. It finally climaxes with a compendium of knob twisting distortion and feedback frails that buzz up and down the string set before fading into distant shakes.

Film soundtrack, guitar showcase or first-meeting souvenir, Grydeland’s and Kaiser’s skill mean In the Arctic Dreamtime can be appreciated as any one or all three.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Roald Amundsen 1925 2. Spitsbergen 3. To the North Pole 4. N25 5. Into the Arctic Dreamtime

Personnel: Ivar Grydeland and Henry Kaiser (electric guitar)