b a r – Spotted Peccary Music SPM-1305
Ambient electronic means many things, much of the time the music is for listening, not dancing and there is no conventional melody or beat, or perhaps the cohesion is more about texture and exploration. Green Isac is known for fearlessly exploring rhythms and melodies from all around the globe, some dancing is allowed, some meditative trance music is included, on this new album there are feelings tapping into broader cultural resonances that connect to avant-garde art, classical music and folk music, performance and some harmonic language that was imported from jazz and 19th-century classical music. On b a r you will enjoy the rudimentary serialism and the instruments borrowed from world music and early music blended with new electronic musical instruments and technologies that transform the musicians’ ideas of what was possible and the audiences’ ideas of what is acceptable in music.
1. About the album b a r
Blended acoustic and electronic instrumental…
…music combining sustained melodic progressive themes and lots of acoustic textures that build and strengthen, using cello, hand percussion, keyboards, guitars and various interesting gizmos. I particularly appreciate the special Norwegian melancholy that stalks the background in places. In the ambient electronic universe, this newest album from the Green Isac Orchestra invokes to my ears a bit of the progressive rock traditions, but without any vocals or virtuoso power-play. I hear actual melodies and tempos, rich acoustic instrumentation mixed with electronics, and even some propulsive crimson riffs at times, all the while residing warmly in the cerebral realm of soothing meditative instrumentals. The album is available from Spotted Peccary Music in LP vinyl format and in 24-BIT AUDIOPHILE, CD QUALITY LOSSLESS, MP3 and streaming formats. Click for all links: here.
b a r was recorded and mixed at Frydenlund Studio, Oslo, Norway, where it was mastered by Lunds Lyd, with cover art by Nils Olav Bøe, who did the previous Green Isac Orchestra album cover illustration. You will hear five musicians lending their skills, secrets, and dreams to create together an elegant and intricate instrumental orchestral tour de force. The orchestra includes Jo Wang playing piano, therevox, mellotron, organ, and synths; Tov Ramstad playing cello and electric cello; Morten Lund playing electric guitar, lapsteel, electronics, baritone guitar, and gizmotron; Frode Larsen playing percussion, mallets, and grand cassa; and Andreas Eriksen playing drums, percussion, synth bass, programming and arpeggiations.
The album title…
…b a r is a word with a lot of different meanings, variously: a long rod used as an obstruction, for fastening, or as a weapon; a counter where alcoholic drinks are served; a deposit composed of sand, silt, or pebbles in a river; a candy bar; to prevent someone from doing something or from going somewhere; a stripe with colors; a term for the legal profession; a line through a letter; a punctuation symbol; as well as specific nouns, family names and geographical designations. The album begins with some moments of power on the first song and settles into a calm meditative groove with a few climactic episodes blended in, creating some interesting dynamic tensions in the mix.
2. The tracks
On the first track…
…bowed strings and tapped cymbals with exotic electronic spices make way for a journey into a somewhat dark wilderness landscape with primal geologic eruptions, a plethora of twists and turns into many interesting dimensions. This is probably the album’s most energetic track, “Volcanic” (7:47), a vast epic landscape that constantly morphs into a series of cycles, a glowing orange bubbling and simmering lava flow that suddenly bursts into a powerful crimson eruption and then returns to the quiet lava flow.
Quietly emerging from darkness, slowly building patterns and details, featuring layered instruments, mainly piano and cello, peppered with acoustic percussion and keeping a meditative mood that slides into a beat, “Le Grand Sportif” (7:05) contains atmospheric displays of group interplay moving fluidly between musical worlds. No showy heroics or athletic power stunts as the title might somehow infer, this is a complicated uniquely magical marriage of the traditional to modern organic electronica, with incorporated elements drawn from classical, jazz, and world music.
The next track…
…”With Hat” (3:25) is a portrait of a subject keeping still and thinking about many things, the subtle facial expressions keep shifting while the subject appears to stay perfectly still. This is a delightfully understated picture of a person posing and allowing the music to illustrate moments of expanded interior mental and spiritual awareness and power, while the tempo is majestically slow and dignified.
Dawn breaks, I hear the cello embraced by intricate guitar layers and haunted by a changing range of pleasing surprises. A groove is established and then tweaked ever so slightly every so many measures, so that gradual changes add up to dramatic ones. “Don Progini” (7:03) ends with a burst of energy mixing of layers with distinctly foreshadowed build-up and release. The cycling theme weaves interpretations of a single theme above a steady rhythm, with a free-floating feeling that tends to find a different meaning everywhere it lands.
Oneiric is an adjective…
…that describes things related to dreams and the fifth track has to me a nocturnal, spacey, dark and oneiric, perhaps an even more melancholic feeling. While showing respect for the old traditions, it is also willing to think along new lines. The title is “Aarwaaken” (6:10), which might translate from Dutch for “to watch.” The instrumental floats free, like a planchette moving over a Ouija board guided by many fingers, where everyone watches the pointer float in various directions, but no one is quite sure how it gets there or what is doing the pushing. Darker, with a beat, visited by turns and layers, yes, this one is my favorite in this collection of some unusually fantastic songs.
The closer for the album is a second portrait of a subject, but this one is not standing still, now we are walking at a brisk tempo, enjoying a new morning, luxuriating in a sound that does not tell you what to feel. “Without Hat” (5:50) mixes layers with a distinctly foreshadowed build-up and release, innovative, eclectic elements, large-scale experimentation, and the use of non-standard and unconventional sounds, instruments, song structures, playing styles, repetitive circular rhythms, ornamentation, the use of acoustic stringed patterns, the sense of beatific endurance, electronic treatments, sound manipulation and minimal hypnotic motifs. And then it ends abruptly.
3. The band
The original duo known…
…as Green Isac began with percussionist Andreas Eriksen and multi-instrumentalist Morten Lund, creating a changing sound that is always exploring electronics and technology blended with world music influences. On the Origo Sound label are their first two albums, Strings & Pottery (1991) where they began creating electronics and rhythms fusing bowed strings and pottery with vintage synths into a delightful ethnic stew, followed by Happy Endings (1997) an earthy blend of exotic strings and hand percussion.
On the Spotted Peccary label their releases include Groundrush (2001), trance-dance ethno new age grooves, Etnotronica (2004), a world music flavored electronic dance masterpiece, Passengers (2014) has an exotic trancelike feeling, and their new sound, Green Isac Orchestra (2015), where the duo expanded to a five-piece ensemble. Five people playing together and recording in the same room make the listening experience more alive, exhibiting fusions of styles, approaches and genres, involving a continuous move between formalism and eclecticism, assimilating some forms of almost classical music into the blend of ethnic and immersive atmospheres.
4. Where to buy b a r?
Written by Robin James, December 16th, 2020