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Christian Winther & Christian Meaas Svendsen, "W/M"

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cover imageNeither Christian Winther nor Christian Meaas Svendsen are newcomers within the Norwegian improvised music scene, but this double disc set marks the first specifically solo releases from the two (albeit with a few collaborative moments as well).  With Winther's guitar and Svensden's double bass making for the only instrumentation used, both produce amazing sounds and compositions out of such basic, traditional sources.

Va Fongool

Winther's disc of solo acoustic guitar is home to the most conventional sounding moments to be had, and even that is a stretch at best.  "We Sleep" is made up of short, erratic string strums that become thicker and more intense with each passing second, and "How Rare to Bloom" even goes further and presents the guitar softer and more delicate sounding for its duration.  "Read" also follows a relatively conventional trajectory, even with a hint of dissonance surrounding it.

It is on songs like "Hair" that Winther coaxes the most unique sounds out of his instrument, and thus his playing makes the piece stand out.  Aggressively plucked strings build into a rhythmic foundation while the metallic buzzing of the strings make for a pseudo melody, even though it bares almost no resemblance to a guitar.  "Backwards" is perhaps the most baffling to me, as it is a rhythmic piece structured from some sort of percussive sounds culled from a guitar that are almost impossible to place, as they do not sound like simply knocking on the instrument’s body.   The result of this ambiguity is an inhuman, almost mechanical quality that definitely kept my ear.

Svendsen does similar things for his double bass on his disc, although here with even less touchstones to traditional sounding instrumentation.  Only on "Prolonged Dots and Blunted Beams" does it sound like conventional plucked bass strings, but with a significant amount of string bending and stretching, it sounds quite unnatural.  "Der Runtergang" at first sounds like normal bowed bass strings, but as it slowly gets rawer and looser, the strings become more dissonant and harsh to almost have no resemblance at all to how it began.

He also works in his own unconventional methods of playing his instrument, such as the polyrhythmic "Hobby," which is all deep thuds and taut, percussive taps.  Similarly, on "Double Rainbow," the bass is made to generate rhythms, but in this case it more closely resembles an ancient analog drum machine that is eventually balanced out with some obvious string plucks that are played so rapidly to resemble a sequenced synthesizer.

On a few a of the pieces the two collaborate together, with results that cover the gamut of what both artists do on their solo works.  "Ärt" is all rather delicate guitar and bass string plucks, which is surprisingly relaxing given the pieces that preceded it.  "Overslept" is the exact opposite, with both creating messy clattering noises with their instruments, both by physical impact and string playing, resulting in an intentionally messy free improvisation feel.

Even though they are two distinct solo albums with a small amount of overlap, both Winther and Svendsen take similar approaches to their own instruments and the unconventional misuse of them.  For that reason they do feel intrinsically connected in some way, almost as if all of the solo pieces were a psychic collaboration unto themselves with or without the other’s awareness at the time.  It makes perfect sense to present these together then, as each disc complements the other beautifully.

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Last Updated on Monday, 18 November 2013 12:20  


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