Fred Lonberg-Holm sometimes plays his cello in an all-acoustic context, as he does on Flats Fixed, another album, a trio session with bassists Peter Kowald and Kent Kessler, which I’ve also reviewed. But he adds electronics to the mix on Party Knüllers’ Gold, as he often did when playing in Ken Vandermark’s Vandermark 5 or Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet.
Party Knüllers is the cello + drums quotient of VCDC (voice, cello, drums, clarinet), a quartet in which the voice is Stine Janvin Motland’s and Frode Gjerstad plays clarinet. The cellist in question is Lonberg-Holm, the drummer Ståle Liavik Solberg.
After the all-string action of Flats Fixed, the irruption of percussion at the start of Gold his like a splash of cold water.
Solberg favours taut, light and volatile percussives. I’ve previously reviewed his No Step duet with British guitarist John Russell, which, like Gold, is out on Solberg’s Hispid label. Hispid means ‘bristly’, or ‘rough with stiff hairs or minute spines’, and the word, sometimes used in the taxonomy of rodents, seems doubly appropriate for Solberg’s often bristly and scuttering style.
Gold was recorded in December 2013 at Cafe Mir, Oslo, Norway, during one of the regular Blow Out! sessions curated by Solberg in tandem with fellow percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love (who, incidentally plays in ADA alongside Lonberg-Holm and Peter Brötzmann).
The half-hour long “Mein mädchen mag um party die ganze zeit” (“My girl likes to party all the time”) comprises the body of the set. Solberg is hyperkinetic, establishing thickets of rim and skin strike in parallel with a constant bell-ringing of small cymbals, before exploding into full kit action. Lonberg-Holm varies his strategies accordingly, sometimes detonating clusters of electronic frizzle within Solberg’s percussives, at others producing raw bow-smears of fuzzed distortion.
The relative calm of a lull eight minutes in only serves to highlight the starkness of the duo’s sound. Solberg rejoins with a tinny tribal pulse, Lonberg-Holm cuts across him with high-pitch wails, then both lock into a shuffling, broiling rhythm that momentarily seems infected by the impulses and ear-popping sonics of Kinshasan ‘Congotronics’.
At another point Lonberg-Holm’s bowing is like the austere wailing of a Malian soku, or one-string lute, and there are other echoes of Malian rhythm in his picking too. But these are fleeting moments. Soon raw electronic distortion floods into his sound, and rhythmic, live-sampled plucking is later doubled by ‘lead’ cello that’s as scouring and overdriven as any lead guitarist. Solberg alternatively stabilises the cellists rawest impulses with wire brushes over snares and amplifies the friction with skittish play on percussion peripherals.
A six minute long encore, “Ich liebe gefunden auf in zwei richtungen” (“I found love in two directions”) is a calmer and more melodic piece, with Lonberg-Holm’s cello played relatively ‘straight’ and passing lyrical. But Solberg is in full-on foley mode and although this piece flirts with conventional beauty it’s always edgily volatile. No stability here, just constant surprise.
Fred Lonberg-Holm cello & electronics; Ståle Liavik Solberg drums & percussion.
Buy Gold via Hispid.