John Tilbury / Keith Rowe / Kjell Bjørge - Sissel [SOFA Music - 2018]Sissel is a fragile, sparse, often forlorn- yet at times haunting slice of improv- bringing together the talents of English pianist John Tilbury, respected British improviser Keith Rowe, and live video artists Kjell Bjørgeengen. The release comes in the form of a CD/ or vinyl release on the Norwegian based SOFA Music label, who of late have released a few interesting titles with-in the improv/ modern composition bracket.
The work takes its title from the first name of Bjørgeengen wife, who sadly passed away in 2016- so this both adds to the feeling of forlornness & loneliness that pervades the track. The work is presented here as a single forty eight minute track- and this moves from one fragile sound structure to the next- which is either marked out by Tilbury’s felt & at times harmonic piano, or by Rowe’s extremely subdued noise making/ improv texturing.
Having personally lost a few family members over the last few years, I feel the work really highlights that feeling of both numbness & fleeting memories/ moments with loved ones, which one experiences after a passing. The whole thing is so loose, fragile, and sparse- as Rowe playing moves eerier drags & crinkles, onto more brooding scapes & creaks, through to moments of almost rhythmic movement. Over this, we get the sparse & often broken-up canvas of Tilbury’s piano playing- and this moves from haunting patter-nation, onto more pronounced melodic cluster or notes, through to discordant darts.
Sissel is a work that requires both time, effort & patience to unlock it’s fragile & felt wonder- it’s music you need to settle back into and slow down with. It’s a pity that there are not the video elements from Bjørgeengen present on the disc, as you do feel like you missing out on part of the work's impact- but never the less this is a highly skillful work of pared-back, but eventful improvRoger Batty