...consistently rewarding, sophisticated and almost entirely above genre.
Neil Bennun 2003-05-08
Jonas Hellborg is a bass guitarist with the omnivorous ears of a Don Cherry and the once-in-a-generation instrumental technique of a John McLaughlin. He is also thankfully something of an anarchist.The approach to his own instrument and choice of collaborators has seen him build a body of work consistently rewarding, sophisticated and almost entirely above genre.
"Icon" continues an exploration of South Indian musical tradition. This began in earnest with Hellborg's previous collaborations with the sons of the legendary ghatam (clay pot) player "Vikku" Vinayakram (famous for his work with Shakti) and the extraordinary guitarist Shawn Lane. All appear here.Instrumental virtuosity, a practically telepathic communication between the five musicians and unorthodox composition from Hellborg and V. Selvaganesh are the order of the day.
This is obvious within the first bars of "Anchor", where Hellborg coaxes microtones out of a slapped fretless acoustic bass guitar over a drone.Umamahesh's vocal proves a rhythmic counterpoint, while Shawn Lane's guitar floats over the high registers with an almost violin-like quality. Lane's shift to rhythmic chords is the cue for Selvaganesh and Umashankar on kanjeera and ghatam to drive the tune forward with stupidly fast feats of percussion. And Hellborg's solo is, well impossible.
Distorted guitar, passages of rhythmic unison and a solo with a curiously vocal quality from Hellborg distinguish "Mirror".A structurally complicated piece,it hits a series of breakdowns and rhythmic swells at the nine minute mark. "Vehicle" by contrast sees deliberate, simple arpeggios and chords from Hellborg's almost lute-like bass guitar give way to beautiful runs from register to register.Lane's fluid guitar then takes on a tone something like a sarangi and the Vinayakram brothers exchange rhythms of splendid complexity.
This release isa masterclass in cross-cultural collaboration.Not so much the meeting of two different traditions as the invention of a new one. Superb.