Posted on Aug 21st 2012 09:16 pm
SIDSEL ENDRESEN & STIAN WESTERHUS
Rune Grammofon 2012
11 Tracks. 59mins12secs
There are few vocalists more fearless and thrilling than Norwegian singer Sidsel Endresen. From traditional vocal forms, she has developed a style all of her own, sung mostly in a made-up language which range from hums and repetitive fragments of semi-recognisable words to harshly syncopated noises, resembling a form of scat for the electronic age. What makes her performances real tours de force is that all vocals are always recorded live, never processed or sampled. From her time as a member of Jon Eberson Group, with whom she recorded five albums between 1981 and 1987, she went on release a number of solo albums for ECM, Jazzland and Sofa. Over the years, she has also built a particularly solid and fertile musical relationship with Bugge Wesseltoft; the duo have recorded three albums, and Wesseltoft is a regular contributor to some of her other projects. She has also released music with Christian Wallumrød, Helge Sten, Nils Petter Molvær, Jon Hassell, Punkt, the duo formed by Jan Bang and Erik Honoré, and more recently, she collaborated with Humcrush on the impressive Ha! Her latest project sees her teaming up with maverick guitarist Stian Westerhus, who occupies regular spots as part of Puma, Monolithic or Bladed. He released his debut solo album, Galore, in 2009 on Rune Grammofon’s offshoot vinyl-only label The Last Record Company, and followed it with Pitch Black Star Spangled a few months later on Rune Grammofon. Westerhus recently collaborated with BOL and Snah on Numb, Number (Gigafon), and his new solo record, The Matriarch And The Wrong Kind Of Flowers, has just been released in Norway. Didymoi Dreams was recorded live at Nattjazz in Bergen, Norway, in May last year.
Although composed entirely of voice and guitars, Didymoi Dreams is an incredibly odd and fascinating playground where nothing sounds or acts is it should. Heavily sliced up, broken apart and reassembled, it seems, at random, or made up of imaginary words, Endresen’s contribution sounds utterly alien. Equally, Westerhus’s treatment of his instrument rarely ends up sounding anything remotely like a guitars. Processing his sounds on the fly, he weaves hypnotic sounds from delayed bowed guitars, deals harsh sonic stabs or miniature clusters of noise, brooding hums or numb feedback. His contribution is not however as twisted or intentionally grinding and corrosive as his solo material, as he leaves much of the space for Endresen to occupy. It is not that she wouldn’t be able to stand against his performance (she indeed would undoubtedly rise to the challenge), but the pair opt for a somewhat nuanced set here, balancing out intricate pieces (Barkis Is Willing, Wayward Ho, Immaculate Heart) and more open and ‘out there’ moment (The Rustle Of A Long Black Skirt, Drawing An Arc, Hector, Dreamwork).
Although split into eleven different pieces, the album is effectively a set of three distinctive improvisations made up of individual sections, the first opening with The Rustle Of A Long Black Dress and concluding with Hedgehumming, the second stretching from Immaculate Heart to Dreamwork and the last focused on closing piece The Law Of Oh. Within the first two sequences, the various segments, or tracks, imperceptibly flow into one another to build self-contained sequential narratives, the pair alternating between moody, at times almost post-industrial textures (Barkis Is Willing, Immaculate Heart, Wooing The Oracle) and more earthy or ethereal tones (Limbs Leave And Snowmobiles, Hedgehumming, Hector).
This kind of intimate settings suites Endresen particularly well, allowing her to deploy a vast section of her extensive dynamic range, and Westerhus is mindful to never smother her with unnecessary sounds. The result is quite simply breathtaking, as their improvisations in turns charm, intrigue, startle or unnerve. It is impossible to remain indifferent to anything on here, and this is just how it should be.