Reviews Search

Christian Meaas Svendsen, "Avin"

cover imageSvendsen's most recent work has been either in the form of concept-heavy improvised jazz performances (as Nakama) or as solo excursions that feature him bending his double bass in any possible way to make sounds the inventor never intended. Compared to that, Avin is a drastic departure. What is so drastic is that, with a cadre of Norwegian virtuosos, he has created a significantly more intimate, singer-songwriter type record that maintains his edge for the bizarre and experimentation, which is superficially "normal" but hides much strangeness.


Besides the total genre flip, one thing that sets the stage for Avin's sonic departure is Svendsen's abandonment of his double bass and picking up a guitar.His vocals, which are not often heard elsewhere, have a pleasant, slightly folksy tinge to them that is pleasant (though being fully in Norwegian, I have no idea what he is actually saying).At other times he takes on a spoken word approach, such as on the opening of "Kretsløp", and the brief interlude "Katarsis", but there is more singing to be had, and it is quite enjoyable.His echoing vocals have a folk quality to them, intimate, as the sound is a complex intermingling of drones and unconventional noises, such as through the complex "Da Du Og Jeg Var Vi". The arrangement and overall sound is extremely nuanced and complex, but the sum of these strange parts is a pleasurable, pop oriented sound.

For "11 Dager," Svendsen and Agnes Hvizdalek pair up to augment a gentle, pleasant sounding arrangement with their differing vocal ranges.The remainder of the octet provides a lush, diverse instrumental backing, with a bit of noise offsetting the conventional sounds far in the background.This mix of the weird with the normal is a defining feature of this record, and probably what makes it the most compelling to me.For example, "Avin" is a delicate construction of chamber pop and muted horns, making for a warm, inviting sound, but there is just something "off" about it.Either the mix or the processing or the performance, it is hard to say, but that weirdness is what makes it great.

More conventional string arrangements may at first be the focus of "Kretsløp," but some decidedly unconventional string sounds pop up to make things strange, as does bizarre vocal treatments toward the end, which becomes a stuttering, cut up, and eventually disintegrating mass of sound.For "I Berlin", the sound is more of a conventional jazz one that hearkens to Svendsen’s more conventional works with Nakama, but abrupt outbursts make it anything but smooth.The concluding "Tørr Og Sliten Jord" is at first a strange mass of noises but soon becomes stripped down to just vocals and guitar.As it goes on, the mix becomes bigger and more dramatic, culminating in an exceptional conclusion.

Christian Meaas Svendsen has been doing an exemplary job at bending the rules of improvised jazz and free music, and so there is little surprise that, turning his focus to more traditional genres, the results are going to be unique.Avin can be confounding at times, which is exactly why I enjoyed it so much.The blend of the familiar and comfortable with the strange or the dissonant is a significant asset to the record, making it among the most unique I have heard lately.