Splashgirl, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London, 8/06/2011


Posted on Jun 10th 2011 01:10 am

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Splashgirl Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London, 8/06/2011

Formed in 2003 by Andreas Løwe (piano, electronics), Jo Myhre (double bass, zither, electronics)  and Andreas Knudsrød (drums, percussions, electronics), Splashgirl released their first album, Door. Keys. five years on, and followed it with a second, Arbor two years later. The album was also the debut release of Norwegian imprint Hubro Music, a label which has since been going from strength to strength. With a new album due out in August, Splashgirl visited London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club, a venue hidden below street level with a stage shoehorned between tables and a bar, just big enough for a Steinway baby grand piano, a drum kit and a double bass.

In the short Q&A that preceded the set, Løwe explained that the music Splashgirl play is not jazz. Perhaps not jazz in any traditional American meaning, but Norwegian musicians have long got hold the genre and entirely rewritten its rule book, making it very much their own in the process. Splashgirl are undoubtedly heirs and beholders of this legacy.

Splashgirl’s realm is one of subtle nuances, delicate textures, precise rhythmic patterns and, above all, cinematic melodies. One often has to lend an attentive ear to catch the finer details of their music and realise that what originally sounded like a touch of electronic texture is in fact a peculiar friction on strings or wood or the amplified noise made by a bow when used on the edge of a tom. Their music is at times so fragile and gossamer that it threatens to shatter in pieces at the smallest disruption. Bravely fighting their way through clinking glasses and cutlery, popping corks and occasional calls of “do you want black pepper sir”, this is what they delivered tonight, playing tracks from their new album mostly, alongside a few older compositions. Such quiet impressionist set up felt out of place in a venue which is essentially a restaurant, yet, if they were in any way bothered about it, Splashgirl never let it show. Their performance felt extremely fluid and nuanced, restrained for the most part, with only rare outbursts of energy. Although the trio, like many of their contemporaries, favour improvised music, their set entirely comprised renditions of existing compositions. Perhaps their only concession, not so much to improv as to creating a particular mood through their set was in their choice of playing a handful of tracks without breaks.

Opening their set with sparse Biosphere-like electronic textures, the trio soon added quiet acoustic layers, the drums and bass weaving together an exquisite mesh for Løwe to place a recurring piano motif. They went on to perform a track from their debut album, placing the new next to the old as to contemplate the journey leading them from one to the other. If, in the early days, their language was infused with jazz references, which still runs through their DNA, they have since opened up to much looser musical forms, gaining for instance cinematic depth and oblique chord associations. This transpired especially sharply on pieces such as Concerning This Square, Creature Of Light or The Other Side, three new tracks, for very different reasons. On the former, this was created by juxtaposing Myhre frantically sliding his bow on the strings of his bass and a spartan piano theme, while the latter two more restrained pieces relied on a more symbiotic and concerted performance, with main melody and rhythmic section intricately linked as they evolved.

Splashgirl’s music may seem somewhat tamed on first listen, but they are keen experimenters. Yet, instead of making a big deal about it, they proceed with discreet touches, whether it is through the use of gentle electronic brushes, bare soundscapes or organic noises and sounds. Worked into the music, often in almost imperceptible ways, these all combine to give a very unique feel to the band’s compositions, which works equally as well, although for very different reasons, on records and live.

Splashgirl | Splashgirl (MySpace) | Hubro Music

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