|Sidsel Endresen & Stian Westerhus|
Sidsel Endresen & Stian Westerhus — Bonita
★ Here they are back with another set of groundbreaking improvisations, this time in a studio setting. Their soundworld is magical, mysterious, beautiful and scary, all underpinned by the evocative song titles. Essential listening for the adventurous music lover.
Album release: January 6, 2015
Recording date: August, 2014
Record Label: Rune Grammofon
1 Bonita 3:38
2 Ripper Silk 6:09
3 Baton 7:02
4 Boom Boom 2:32
5 Knuckle Tattoo 2:38
6 White Mantilla 8:58
7 The Pink Link 1:35
8 Solemn Vista 2:22
9 Blue Punch 3:50
★ Recorded live at Oslo Klang Studio, in Oslo, Norway, in August, 2014 by Johnny Skalleberg.
★ Sidsel Endresen — voice
★ Stian Westerhus — guitars
★ Sidsel Endresen Primary Artist
★ Kim Hiorthøy Sleeve Design
★ Johnny Skalleberg Engineer
★ Helge Sten Mastering
★ Stian Westerhus Mixing, Primary Artist, Producer
Review by Thom Jurek; Score: ★★★★½
★ Didymoi Dreams, the initial recorded collaboration between veteran vocalist and composer Sidsel Endresen and guitarist Stian Westerhus, was cut live at a jazz festival in 2011 and released the following year. They've performed together since, but Bonita marks the duo's first studio outing. Though the atmosphere is more controlled, the music isn't. Engineer Johnny Kallenberg captured this in–the–moment performance at Studio Oslo Klang in a single session; Westerhus mixed it a month later. Perhaps the most immediately noticeable difference is in Westerhus' playing. Given the experience he's had with his rock group Pale Horses, his approach in meeting Endresen's signature, boundless sense of improvisational adventure is more aggressive. He uses more tones, more effects; he goes at the spaces rather than hanging inside them — check the rowdy "Baton" for evidence. This is as it should be; he is not support for Endresen, but the other voice in this balanced presentation. Like her, he too is a "singer," though it's through his playing. Together they create resonance in whispers and echoes, surges, retreats, and the wonder of empty space. On "Boom Boom," a tender, painterly ballad, they seem to emerge from these silent corners with a shared tenderness of expression. The moody yet disturbingly gorgeous "Knuckle Tattoo" offers lyricism and dynamic tension rooted in emotional darkness and implied violence. ★ The elliptically lyrical "Solemn Vista" is more fluid, generous in its sonances and textures. But these softer tracks are balanced by the rumble, amble, and zig–zag as found in the wildly abstract Ripper Silk," where growls, stutters, moans, and scrapes are asserted, answered, strung together, and pulled apart. Likewise, "Wild Mantilla" creates a fragmented yet purposeful cadence, dissembled time structure, and lyric architecture of its own. It's in the moment to be sure, but there is no excess, everything is focused on spark–into–flame concentration. Closer "Blue Punch" centers on a single, fractured guitar riff, distorted and mangled yet repetitive and hypnotic. ★ Endresen grabs onto it, mimics it, then departs, forcing Westerhus to meet her slurry glossolalia with quaking attentiveness. As electrifying and bracing as Didymoi Dreams was, Bonita is even more so. The intimacy factor at work here is such that the pair are undistracted by other, outside influences. They surround, wind through, and soar above, below, and through each other egolessly and instinctually. Bonita is more assured, yet riskier and perhaps even braver than its predecessor. While that opinion is subjective, the album is a must for anyone interested in 21st century improvised music.
Artist Biography by Richie Unterberger
Born: 19 June 1952, Norway
★ Sidsel Endresen is one of the leading vocal improvisers in the world and has worked as a professional singer and songwriter since the '80s. In 1990 and 1994 she recorded two solo albums for ECM. The '90s also saw a very fruitful collaboration with Bugge Wesseltoft, resulting in three albums and two more Grammys. Since 2000, she has done solo projects, written film music and collaborated further with international and Norwegian artists such as Helge Sten, Christian Wallumrod, Rolf Wallin, Jan Bang and Hakon Kornstad. She has toured all over the world, written music for several theater and dance perfomances and has been festival composer for the jazz festivals in Bergen and Molde. And these are only some of her credentials.
★ Norwegian vocalist Sidsel Endresen (who sings in English) is one of those 1990s artists who demonstrates the increasing difficulty in applying traditional 20th–century categorizations to many contemporary music albums. Although the singer/songwriter works with some notable jazz musicians, her records aren't really jazz; although they have plenty of experimental elements, they are firmly grounded in songs, and are more accessible than much "new music." Her pieces also betray the influence of some rock and folk (her voice is very reminiscent of Sandy Denny's), but bear even less concrete relationships to those forms.
★ Endresen has recorded a couple albums for ECM that bear some hallmarks of the label's trademark spacious production values, but avoid sterility. Her abstract lyrics are backed by jazzy minimalist strokes that occasionally skate into dissonance. Drummer Jon Christensen and cellist David Darling are the most recognizable of the musicians on these discs, which have a broader appeal than the traditional ECM listening base.
Born: 2 April 1979, Steinkjer, Nord–Trøndelag
★ Stian Westerhus is a musician challenging and stretching the limits of his instrument beyond the normal confines of the electric guitar, balancing raw expressiveness against virtuosity and melodic instinct. He has been called the hardest working (jazz) musician in Norway, always on the road, in the studio or working on yet another project. Lately his main priorities, aside from the duo with Sidsel Endresen, have been his solo career and his new "rock" group Pale Horses. A few years ago he also toured as a member of Nils Petter Molvaer's trio and did a commission work for Molde International Jazz Festival that included names like Maja Ratkje, Mats Gustafsson, Kjetil Moster, Ola Kvernberg and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra."
★ Westerhus hold a bachelor in jazz from Middlesex University under Stuart Hall, and a master from the Jazz program at Trondheim Musikkonservatorium, (NTNU, 2005).
★ He was first recognised by a broader audience within the experimental jazz band Puma, with whom he released four albums. The soloalbum Pitch Black Star Spangled (2010) on Rune Grammofon got some attention in reviews.
★ On his latest album Didymoi Dreams (2012) is his debut duo with experimental jazz singer Sidsel Endresen, we experience insane guitar rhythms meeting with a gibberish vocal world.
|Sidsel Endresen & Stian Westerhus|