sound structures

ReSurge - Sound Structures
Lisa Ullén [piano] – Ulf Åkerhielm [double-bass] – Jonna Sandell [violin] –
Lars Bröndum [guitar, electronics]
Compositions: Lars Bröndum, except
Logos II: Lisa Ullén

MuArk 028. Duration: 51:35

(all photographs: ingvar loco nordin)

1. Vertigo [27:39]:

2. Logo II [4:23]

3. Locana [2:04]

4. Orb 3 [7:23]

5. Lotus [1:57]

6. Short Circuit [8:09]

I’m in love… but there is nothing threatening about it! I’m in love the same way I fell in love with San Francisco on arriving there the first time, in 1970: a smooth and breezy kind of love; the water glittering towards the Rock, cable cars laboring up hills; breaking and rattling down hills – sun and incense and many colors, fresh out of the 1960s into this new decade of the 1970s…

That’s how I’ve fallen in love with this ensemble; ReSurge – with the music out of this seriously blessed congestion of talent in Stockholm: Fisherman’s Wharf love; Height Ashbury love, Union Square love…

However, this sentiment is not to be confused with the musical scene of the 1960s or 70s, for ReSurge is a 21st century ensemble, conveying 21st century thoughts and feelings. I leave it up to you to determine the difference! A surprise, though, is the connection back to a famous art music piece from 1913! I’ll get back to that later!

My love for ReSurge is also a pepper-cookie and glogg kind of love, deep-dark-December-with-piercing-stars-over-the-snow kind of love, a Tomas Tranströmer mid-winter love… full of cozy warm sweater curl-ups by the fire-place to fend of the chills of the season!

Yes, ReSurge’s approach is a sweet, warm almond-and-raisins rite, a ceremony of love and life against this dark backdrop of evil that always looms beyond the immediacy of the moment.

This new CD, that I received a couple of days ago at the release concert at Fylkingen in Stockholm, is a vibrant cat-walk meow to stir and disturb the progression of fowl-mouthed and ill-witted intentions that rise against us like deafening tsunamis through CNN and Al Jazeera every day, battering us with an assortment of everything that is bad and negative. ReSurge conjures feelings of hope and emotional resistance out of their instrument’s, out of Lisa’s hammering grand piano, Jonna’s scraping violin, Ulf’s rumbling double bass and Lars’ traversing guitar climbs and soaring, hovering electronics.

The title –
Sound Structures – isn’t a very good one for a CD like this. It seems to refer to the purely intellectual and somewhat stale and humorless 12-tone music of the 1950s’ Germany, like the offspring of Darmstadt or Donaueschingen. I’d rename it Almond Assertions or Raisin Remedy, if I had a say! There is humor in this music, and love and lust and, like I said, a humble but strong resistance!

Track 1 is Vertigo, which, with its 27 minutes and 39 seconds is the longest sound structure on the CD.

Intense electronic chatter, dispersed along the dark lines of double bass and the blood-red incisions of violin, opens the piece in a breathing motion of in and out, up and down: a slow swell of the ocean under grainy starlight; an omni-presence of life smeared out evenly around the landmasses of the planet…

Bröndum stalks the breath of Åkerhielm’s double bass in shadowy pursuits, all in this extended, under-the-breath breath, that lays the foundation for a calm, albeit somewhat ominous, soundscape by the sea – but this is where the biggest surprise on the whole CD suddenly hits home: Lisa Ullén banging away on her piano in an undisguised mimicry of Igor Stravinsky’s
Le Sacre du Printemps, the very beginning of Danses des Adolescentes!
ReSurge played this bit at the Fylkingen concert, and I really jumped at the well-known rhythms hammered out by Lisa Ullén like a tinsmith molding a sheet of metal; this frail-looking little woman emitting such violent force through the body of her instrument!

Ulf Åkerhielm counteracts Lisa Ullén’s rhythms with a peculiar, stuttering backbeat on his double bass, and ReSurge really swings here, really moves! Jonna Sandell pries her way into this transparent force with her scraping, twittering violin, scratching messages on a sky of steel. Lars Bröndum swirls in with cut-up tinsel guitar trajectories, balancing the four corners of his existence on a small group of rectangular planes that tilt into various directions.

The double bass gets lyrical, explaining brittle tendernesses in multi-dimensional little figures, until everyone falls silent for the benefit of the piano, which paints pointillist patterns in wet dots of ink around the room.

The electronic music sweeps Stockhausenesque netherworld mists around the ensemble like a veil or a dark coat of autumn, as the piano approaches from within the circle of players, stacking blocks of ice into a cold mound of reverberant silences. The piano in turn falls silent, allowing for the most delicate conversation of shy stringed beings: the violin, the guitar and the great grandfather double bass, towering from on high, held in place by Ulf Åkerhielm’s grave apparition…

Jonna Sandell gets involved in a dialogue between her natural wooden violin and its electronic resemblances, like a person adrift in the Bardo of the hereafter. This is a magic séance of violin voices, from right up your face to far below the horizon of events… Beautiful, thoughtful… soul blistering!

Ulf Åkerhielm joins this spooky session with a madman’s gnawing bass, like was he felling tall trees with his bow, all the while with Lars Bröndum’s deceptive electronic mist smoothing out the edges of existence for the sonic travelers.

This Bröndum composition is seriously exciting and happily obstinate, offering a relentless and intricate resistance. Maybe this CD ought to be called Resistances – yeah, that’s a good name for this music, and I really don’t mind the Stravinsky homage in there!

The second piece is called
Logo II, and it’s the only work here not composed by Lars Bröndum. It’s written by Lisa Ullén, the pianist.

It offers a jerky, chunky start, the instruments coming off in chopped-up chunks of reinforced chamber audio, and this peculiar atmosphere of seemingly random cuts and bruises ‘round piled up logs of wood continues, though the different shreds are gradually sown together into a makeshift tapestry of disparate components, like the superficial nation of Yugoslavia once was, under the mighty Tito. This piece of music, though, does not imply a Balkan war or anything. It just harbors a Father Christmas jute sack (bursting at its seams!) of conflicting emotions and wild wills, out of Lisa Ullén’s glistening complexities! Towards the conclusion, the music winds down into a Morton Feldman sequence of music drops that fall into the dark season of winter, leaving the shape of an icicle trailing the ensemble as it falls silent.

Locana is the title of the third composition. It’s a very short one; just about two minutes – but time hasn’t got much to do with this essentially timeless music. The durations may be short or extended; it doesn’t matter. The music exists in the moment of playing, and that is forever or never; your choice.

One short Sandell dash, followed by one single Ullén dot, plus a little bit more drawn out brown Åkerhielm bass line; a chalk mark across the score.

The music is vulnerable, sparse… and in fact, in some ways, reminiscent of some experimental chamber works of the 1960s! It’s over before it starts, but it pays off to re-spin it a couple of times, because in this tiny nucleus of sonorities there is a lot of power to be extracted. It doesn’t have to be big to be mighty! This bagatelle can probably move mountains, if studied closer. I sense worlds in there.

Orb 3 is Lars Bröndum’s cryptic title of the fourth entry.
Dampened and muffled strings en masse are delivered in a lattice-work of elasticities from the guitar, perhaps also permuted through electronic devices, like sunlight passing over a stubble-field in September; those short, yellow straws awaiting the autumn plows.

Resounding string theories are put to the test after a while, but the sound also carries a multitude of shiny, glary vibrations that illuminate the music. The double bass rumbles way down in the clay, as the electronic jitter obscures the vision across the stubble-fields.

This music which you are stops in its tracks, way out in the fields, looking back at the farm house like was it a former life; the house a body that you’ve shed and left behind, as you’re soaring now in a pristine state of mind, into the State of Mind!

Nowhere is Resurge as thoughtful and introspective as here, and yet a transparent tornado motion out towards the periphery of perception encircles you ever tighter, ever closer, as the guitar picking travels your face like a lover’s caring fingertips. Smoke rises in your life, in this cold air, in this human predicament, in a Buddha column – and that which isn’t eternal isn’t very real – so… we’re eternal, right? This sonorous sutra shines in lustful fragrances; an incense of the now and the here! Lisa smiles mysteriously from within her silence. Her piano is not touched in
Orb 3, but the music is pregnant with her mysteriousness, the yearning electronic fog dense with her breath.

Lotus is track five.
Again a very short – duration wise! – piece, but bursting with possibilities, mainly applied in short motions of the brush across the canvas; the colors thick and oily, almost like modeling clay.
A mixture of John Cage, Morton Feldman and Pierre Boulez. Clean statements tilting into an orchard abandoned for the winter; just shreds of thoughts hovering in tarnished morphemes between the apple trees…

The last piece is Short Circuit. The instruments take on the behavior of meteorites passing Earth: streaks appearing, passing and disappearing, in showers. The notes are played in a play of volume, in a sense of red shift when applied to the stars of an expanding universe, or the way trains pass a railway crossing, or, with a not so farfetched analogy, the way some male frogs inflate and deflate sacks in the corner of their mouths to impress female frogs…

The music gets increasingly denser, but this peculiar swelling and retraction of individual sounds continues. The violin and the piano get on terms, talking the same language for a while, while the double bass talks to itself like an old and deaf Beethoven. Bröndum spreads magic through the soundscape with his machinery of electronic dreams. Åkerhielm lets the double bass mumble and fumble, inching its way through the dark forest. Ullén attacks the piano, but recedes into the distance with the Merzbau ship, which carries the ensemble into the silence from whence it rose. Brilliant!