Saturday, November 6, 2010

Eivind Aarset: The Sonic Sound

Eivind Aarset (guitar; b. 1961)
(Photo: nomo/michael hoefner)

With a combination of Brian Eno's ambient creations and Miles Davis' fusion era explorations, guitarist, Eivind Aarset has created a futurist realm for the jazz guitarist. Hailing from Norway, Eivind Aarset had performed with numerous Norwegian musicians--really coming to prominence through his work with Nils Petter Molvaer, Sidsel Endrensen and Bugge Wesseltoft to name a few. His recordings are a modern fusion of jazz and electronics. Melodic in nature but with enough emotionally craftiness that his instrumental voice standouts amongst the layers of electronics.
Eivind Aarset's albums are awash of electronics all the while emitting subtle harmonics and ethereal grooves that sometimes can be reminiscent of fellow guitar experimentalists, Michael Brook and David Torn. Aarset has four albums to date. Each one building on the rugged guitar movements and sparse electronic density with enchanting effects.

My favourite album would be his third album, Connected (Jazzland Records). Connected fulfills the promise of his debut, Electronique Noire and its successor, Light Extracts with swathes of acoustic, electronic and forward thinking results. Connected features excellent vocal contributions from Dhafer Youssef and wonderful interplay with saxophonist, Hans Ulrik as well as the rest the band.
This is a session that not only builds a soundscape conjuring up other worldly images but as illustrates Aarset's ability to create pathway and vision for jazz guitarists to follow. Songs like "Silk Worm", " Electromagnetic In E," and "Transmission" standout as signpost of musician who is thinking on a completely different level than his contemporaries.

Eivind Aarset's most recent release Live Extracts is an altogether different experience. It's brings the creativity of the studio into raw, emotional and improvised live setting.

Live Extracts follows Aarset's touring band Sonic Codex Orchestra in support of his fourth album Sonic Codex. This octet is really amazing and the sound world they create invokes the aforementioned guitarists but also Aarset's work shift between electronic adventure and jazz improvisation. Covering mainly pieces from Sonic Codex and Connected, Live Extracts is well focused live album with some bright moments like "Electromagnetic"--a piece that expands around Aarset's distorted and monstrous chords and pounding rhythms from Audun Erlien (bass), Wetle Holte and Erland Daahlen (both on drums).

"Drobak Saray" a beautiful track from Sonic Codex that here is even more raw, with waves expression from Aarset and heavy mood displacement from Erlien. The track then builds into a cavalcade of grand rock movement.

"Murky Seven" is the shortest track on the album but delivers a nice experimental vibe with Aarset's mild picking and some lovely percussion work from Dahlen. This folds directly into an assault on sound that is "Sign Of Seven" with features a magnificent performance from Hakon Kornstad (sax). This is also probably the closest moment Aarset comes to Live Evil/Dark Magus period of Miles Davis as the piece builds layer upon layer of sound to complete all-stop.

Live Extracts closes appropriately with "Bla Meis", a slow moving ballad with what feel to me like gentle Americana undertones. "Bla Meis" quietly slides and fades away leaving the listener with a pleasant emotional live experience.

Aarset's playing is always bold but never overpowering or used to make some over-produced statement. I think Connected and Live Extracts are the prefect companions and introductory pieces for anyone looking at getting into Eivind Aarset--one of the best jazz guitarist coming out of Norway at the moment.

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