Singer Endresen teams up with keyboardist/prodcer Wesseltoft for a spot of Nordic...
Dan Hill 2002
This is a lovely album. While it does little to escape the trademark Scando-new-jazz sound (a sophisticated, minimal austerity), it's all the better for it. A Norwegian duet between vocalist Sidsel Endresen and keyboard player Bugge Wesseltoft, it's a quiet, graceful set, varying from traditional folky songform to abstract avant-jazz.
During Endresen's earlier tenure at ECM, I saw her perform with the arch English eccentric Django Bates (plus group). That collaboration worked, and so does this one, the third between Wesseltoft and Endresen(on Wesselftoft's label, Jazzland).
I must admit, I've been previously unimpressed with Bugge Wesseltoft, and particularly his bleedin' "new conception of jazz" (unlike others). Here though, he's the perfect foil for Endresen, conjuring subtle, evocative settings for her spare vocals, playing with real grace throughout. He's witty and sophisticated when supporting the nod to cocktail-bossa on the attractive "Survival Techniques 3"; abstract and funky on "Heartbeat" (no, not that one); intelligently explorative on "Hav"; and simply, humbly supportive on a ravishly stark version of Neil Young's "Birds".
The centrepiece "Names, Numbers" is wonderfully sinister, thanks to Wesseltoft's freaky distorted stylings, his basslines stalking rather than walking. It sounds almost like a mid-sixties Raymond Scott piece, until Endresen punctures the mood with her aloof poetry. Lyrically, abstract, minimalist dashes of single words and short phrases are the order of the day, perfectly suited to her clear Scandinavian intonation.
Introspective female singer-songwriters of a certain ilk are usually, lazily, matched up against Joni Mitchell. But there's no mistaking Endresen's similarity to Mitchell on occasion - the similarly fragile yet firm, slightly croaky voice; similarly progressive settings based around jazz and world music.However, Meredith Monk also comes to mind - particularly in the extraordinary post-speech tape-cutups of "Survival Techniques 1+2" and layered vocals of "Voices". Likewise, others who've matched the song with jazz and experimentation (the likes of Robert Wyatt and Annette Peacock, say - even Laurie Anderson).
Enough comparison - Endresen has her own recognisable musical voice, building an increasingly impressive body of work. "Out Here, In There" is a starker piece than the previous (excellent) Undertow for Jazzland, but still surprisingly varied given the lack of personnel, this constraint only serving to stimulate creativity. Recommended.
Like This? Try These:
Susanna Abbuehl - April
Bugge Wesseltoft - Moving