Christian Wallumrød’s music has become more relaxed and eclectic since 2013, when he delivered the last of five excellent Ensemble recordings through ECM.
His next move, on new label Hubro, was to debut Brutter, a duo in which he plays abrasive rhythmic music, recording on drum machines, synth and electronics alongside his brother Fredrik’s drums and electronics. Their self-titled album was a reminder of the nu jazz Wallumrød plays in groups such as Close Erase and Audun Kleive’s Generator X, alongside his more high profile own-name acoustic music.
Then came the intimate, solo Pianokammer, something of a stock-taking exercise, and the quirky, orchestral commission Untitled Arpeggios and Pulses, after which Kurzsam and Fulger marks a natural return to the Ensemble. It’s a new iteration of the group though, now a svelte quintet, trimmed of baroque harp and hardanger fiddle to a core instrumentation of piano, brass, reeds, strings and percussion.
The Ensemble’s last ECM album, Outstairs, signalled a subtle shift away from early church music, Webern and post-Cage avant-garde influences towards earthier jazz and folk, and the cooler, less baroque Kurzsam and Fulger goes further in the same direction.
Lead cut “Haksong” is a jaunty and uplifting reprise of Pianokammer‘s “Hoksang”; a simple, quasi-rustic ambulation toward a beautifully orchestrated late flourish, which evokes birds flocking at sunset, and an exquisitely detailed, stand-alone coda, which bridges to the brittle, isolated bell chimes of the minimalist and coldly static “Fulgsam”.
That’s quite a journey already, and the remaining pieces are just as sympathetically eclectic.
Finger-drummed toms bolster the halting, elegiac horn/harmonium fugue “Langsam” with soft but martial insistency. Wallumrød follows that with “Phoniks”, a hazy, vibratory shimmer of bowed and overblown laminae, closer to electro-acoustic drone than acoustic music, and “Klafferas” a short percussive exercise in close-mic’d breath sounds and instrumental manipulations. This is meticulous, concentrated music made to sound refreshingly simple.
“Arpsam” is double the length of anything else here, an uncluttered meditation with plenty of space for Wallumrød’s limpid leitmotif of slow-motion melody to resonate with more close-mic’d saxophonic key clicks and compressed breath sounds, which are drawn out and ultimately thickened with cello drone.
Finally “Kurzsam Und Onward” revives the halting jauntiness of “Langsam” with bright unison figures islanded by intervals of silence, and increasingly fragmented, until all that’s left is the tinkle of small percussion and the repetitive, damped tapping of a solitary ivory.
Meanwhile the album’s production is crystal-clear, with the complex echoic vibrations in the piano’s harp amplified in each passing silence.
Christian Wallumrød piano; Eivind Lønning trumpet; Espen Reinertsen saxophone; Tove Törngren cello; Per Oddvar Johansen drums, vibraphone.
Buy Kurzsam and Fulger direct from Hubro.