Christian Wallumrød - Pianokammer [Hubro - 2015]Pianist Christian Wallumrød has released "Pianokammer" on the Norweigen label Hubro, who are responsible for many of my favorite psychedelic jazz/rock improvisation recordings of the last few years, such as Bly De Blyant's "ABC".
The first piece "Fahrkunst" is quite cold and forboding, a dissonant dark ambient flow, a vast and lonely emptiness sketched in muffled subrange drift, swelling from left to right in murky, delirious stillness, suffocating like the weight of the entire ocean pressing upon a tiny vessel in the deep sea. This is the kind of sound Thomas Koner is known for. From the liner notes (and album title), I learned that all of the sounds on the album were sourced from Wallumrød's piano, but you wouldn't know it from the sound of this track.
The 2nd track "Hoksang" immediately begins with a more traditional approach to piano playing, making a soothing ostinato out of circular arpeggiations of consonant, folk flavored chords, invoking a domestic feeling and drawing more from blues in its meandering, improvisatory style than from classical music or jazz. The playing is expressive, and in many cases the lead melody nearly feels as if it is being sung, or like it should have been sung. The playing is not unlike the keyboard accompaniment of many a vocal rock or blues number.
"Second Fahrkunst" is a quick return back to detached avant garde desolation, the faint reverberant howling of the 1st piece glowing faintly behind a percolation of dot-like staccato notes, speckled like stars across the quietude. The 2nd piece "Hoksang" felt like an unadventurous, almost maudlin flavor of consonant folk melodicism, yet the opener and this 3rd piece have the opposite problem, testing the listener's patience with a refusal to provide any kind of relatable or pleasurable content, in favor of blankness. The continuity of this recording, or lack there of, has begun to confuse me.
"Boyd 1970" is, I suppose unsurprisingly, another straightforward melodic number, a symmetrical chord progression arranged with a rock n roll / blues sensibility and pace, complimentary A and B sections, et cetera. It starts to become apparently how truly bland Wallumrød's note choice is: his melodic ideas wouldn't have been innovative had he been a bar pianist in the 1940's, at which time people like Thelonious Monk were already doing wonders with embellishments on the blues which far eclipse any of the tuneful but tediously standard fare found on this disk.
In addition to Wallumrød's oh-so-typical chord progressions, add the fact that this is a solo piano recording and you have a supremely boring album in "Pianokammer". None of the music on this album sounds complete: despite being solo pieces, these tracks sound like much like accompaniment to some kind of absent other element, likely vocals, or a guitar. Wallumrød missed an opportunity to take the repetitive, chord-driven structure of his music in the folk/pop direction it seems already molded to fit.
The many near-silent tracks on this album are evidence that Wallumrød intended to create some kind of hushed ode to solitary contemplation, but I've heard many better such albums, and I don't think the many inexplicable contrasts of this album cohere into much of a statement. Romping blues numbers don't have much place on an ambient recording. I can't find much value in anything Wallumrød has done here, as his playing is neither technically impressive nor inventive.Josh Landry