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Arve Henriksen Sakuteiki Review

Album. Released 2001.  

BBC Review

...musicmaking as natural and essential as breathing.

Peter Marsh 2002

Taking its title from an 11th century Japanese treatise on gardening, Sakuteiki is trumpeter Henriksen's first solo record, and it's a thing of rare and compelling beauty.

Alone on trumpet, harmonium and percussion (often played simultaneously), Henriksen's charged miniatures have the same economy and intensity of expression that is central to much Japanese art; haiku, ink painting and indeed zen gardening, where what is not said, played or drawn is easily as important as that which is.

Henriksen's breathy, sensuous tone and smeared vocal effects are incredibly shakuhachi-like, while his phrases achieve the same sense of restrained, sometimes desolate melancholy that Japanese traditional music can convey, without descending to mere imitation. Helge Sten's masterful recording (no effects or overdubs throughout) zooms in on detail; spit crackling and bubbling on the mouthpiece, the gentle hiss of escaping breath, valves clicking. Its almost the aural equivalent of a photo of a familiar object rendered alien by extreme magnification; often unrecognisable as a trumpet, Henriksen's tones are as rich and complex as anything conjured up by electronic means.

On "viewing infinite space", Henriksens trumpet is allowed to wallow in the luxurious natural reverb of the Emmanuel Vigeland Museum to stunning effect, while the warm, recessed throb of a harmonium underpins the aching high register improvisation of "shrine". Occasionally he shadows his trumpet notes with harmonium tones, sounding like an unplugged take on Jon Hassell's digital harmonisations. Comparisons with Hassell are inevitable perhaps, but Henriksen has his own voice (and thankfully, none of Hassell's occasionally tiring intellectual baggage). Each piece seems intimately bound to its title, and stones should never be placed carelessly sums up both the records inspiration and its execution. Not a note out of place and played with the utmost care, this is musicmaking as natural and essential as breathing.

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