release date:21.10.2022 on Jazzland Records / Punkt Edition
In 2020, the Norwegian duo of Inge Weatherhead Breistein (saxophone) and John Derek Bishop [aka Tortusa] (live sampling) performed a series of five concerts in five separate churches along the west coast of their native Norway. With the aim of exploring both these sites’ unique acoustic profiles and their unique historical resonances, the pair has selected ten shorter etudes from these concerts (with the exception of the engrossing, elemental “Ro”, which clocks in at over 7 minutes). These have then been graced with monosyllabic Norwegian titles that act as key to the different emotional states encountered in these specific spaces, and to the distinct instrumental approaches inspired from them.
The glowing warmth of Breistein’s tenor sax tone, as applied to his technical skill with circular breathing and other extended technique, is the fuel for Bishop’s own agile electronic work – Bishop uses no pre-loaded samples or patches here, and instead performs real-time shaping of Breistein’s output into new and chimerical forms. Much like Calm Brutalism, Bishop’s previous collaboration with Svein Rikard Mathisen, this is a fascinating study in the process of finding abundance within austerity: enough happens within even the shorter pieces to satiate listeners who like to “find themselves by losing themselves”.
Even for those who are familiar with the transforming potential of live electronic sound tools, this duo conversation offers some moments of genuine surprise. Take for example how the simple sax tone on ‘Funn’ is expanded into a cascade of something like hammered dulcimer notes, or, on ‘Lyng’, into the quiet crackling of aged vinyl records and elusive, detuned strangeness. This is not simply a matter of having the right tools, though – these successes stem from a perceptible balance between thoughtful experimentalism and beckoning seductiveness. Many of these sound miniatures bring to mind the first, classic uses of “studio-as-instrument” applied to jazz ensembles wise to concrete technique (see especially the intoxicating foam of sounds that Bishop conjures up on “Stim”). Yet, even if just two of these musical snapshots of the duo’s collective psyche are compared with one another, it’s clear they are not beholden to any one genre’s history: “Lag” is like a found film reel of grayscale, industrialized mystery from an unspecified time and place; blemished with scratches and dust. “Trekk” is shimmering exotica bathed in the vermilion rays of a setting sun, and given additional vitality by deep percussive hits.
Most remarkable, though, is how all of this happens while the instrumentalists are exercising an abundance of restraint and caution. Neither Breistein or Bishop ever really “cut loose”, mainly because there is no need to: even the most subdued moments on this outing aim at a kind of engaging tranquility (which can be favorably contrasted with more boring, soporific forms of “wellness” music), and the moments of agitation are constructive rather than simply aggressive. In the final reckoning, [album title] takes its inspiration from architectural features in order to build a secondary sonic architecture that both embodies those spaces’ original intentions, and mutates into something unexpectedly new.
credit: Anna Rezulak
JOHN DEREK BISHOP & INGE WEATHERHEAD BREISTEIN – Ro
CD / DL – 21st October 2022
Jazzland Recordings – CD 377 9469
Inge Weatherhead Breistein – saxophone
John Derek Bishop – live sampling