Serene but inventive drone-based music from improvisation-minded Norwegians.
For the Middle Class, Norwegian improvisational jazz trio Huntsville's debut effort, opens with a minute and a half of high drone, like the hum of a microphone or even a refrigerator; but the music soon blossoms into a full experimental suite. One way of thinking about it is through reminiscences of industrial or household noises -- that refrigerator hum, a chopping rhythm like helicopter blades, bird-twitter -- and perhaps part of the point of these expansive compositions is the recreation of chugging reality. But these four compositions (the first and third, at 15 and 22 minutes apiece, true suites) have more of a pre-ordained character than Ivar Grydeland and Ingar Zach's previous work on their own improvisation-centred Sofa label. For instance, the transition seven minutes into "The Appearance of a Wise Child" from drone-only to acoustic-strum (over a rising jazz-percussion fret), signals a decidedly pre-planned shift in the tenor of the song; on "Serious Like a Pope" it's an inexorable tide of organ drone, slowly overtaking the bowing, Asian-accented theme.
Throughout, the group uses the guitar-bass-drums format as a base but you'll hardly recognise that sound at all -- instruments are bowed, plucked, brushed and hit in inventive ways to create specific, and sometimes beguiling, effects. Perhaps the group's a little too preoccupied with inventive sound -- "Melon" wanders for too long over the same ground -- acoustic harmonics, subtle surrounding effects like raked leaves. Predominantly instrumental, the one or two lines of spare text (in the same dreamy drone as the background) are likely to pass by without much impact; and this is fine, because the music itself is full and complex. Huntsville exist in that alternate world of esoteric experimentalism the Rune Grammofon has come to exemplify; if you're familiar with this brand of insular, minimal complexity, Huntsville won't disappoint.