Daniel Herskedal and Marius Neset Neck of the Woods Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

A pristine production from the young Norwegian duo.

Martin Longley 2012

The young Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset has teamed up with fellow countryman and tubist Daniel Herskedal to bring their collaboration to the Edition label, augmented here by the Swedish Svanholm Singers.

The two players met at The Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen, where Britain’s own Django Bates currently teaches. This session was recorded in Denmark and Sweden, with Herskedal as the chief composing voice, Neset only penning three tunes.

The title track possesses a pronounced Philip Glass influence, as Herskedal’s tuba bassline powers a foundational flow before the singers set up their insistent repeats. The other unavoidable precedent is saxophonist Jan Garbarek’s collaboration with The Hilliard Ensemble, and when Neset’s soprano figure starts dancing, the Glass comparisons are again magnified. The piece shunts into a low humming vocal refrain, cutting the hyperactivity; then they’re all off again, traipsing to the finale. And all this in just over five minutes.

There’s an overlying early music feel, but that’s just the stylistic starting point. Already, we’re finding Neset in a radically different place, following the initial showering of his Golden Xplosion debut for Edition.

Lutra Lutra has a tuba line straight out of the Balkans, with Neset swiftly joining in the caper. Eg Er Framand is a traditional tune arranged by the pair, featuring the pure solo voice of Hallvar Djupvik. Ara’s Dance evokes the ghost of New Orleans parade bands, but there’s also a funkin’ pastoralism, à la John Surman.

A restful clarity pervades The Christmas Song, with choral voices understated, this being Neset’s soprano saxophone showcase. Dragon’s Eye features a voyage inside the bowels of Herksedal’s tuba, an overdubbed build-up of animal snortings, droning and then some cleaner melodiousness.

There’s more Garbarek and Surman on Swan Island, plus a kind of decelerated Michael Nyman progression. Roles of ascendance are always changing on this album, and here the singers are merely providing colouration.

Ultimately, this project is probably too reminiscent of other artists to be truly great, but it’s a pristine production and has potential to reach an audience that’s less weathered by the storm and more inexperienced when it comes to such musical meetings.

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