Nodding at Norway: Øra Fonogram & Emmeluth’s Amoeba

Every now and then an email pops into my inbox from Øra Fonogram. They are a record label associated with a recording studio in Trondheim, Norway. Trondhem is home to a conservatoire that’s produced quite a few international names but Øra, as far as I can tell, is nurturing talent that’s adventurous and just getting going and gives them control, and responsibility, for their music.  It’s a treat therefore to get a bit of an insight into under-the-radar nordic talent and into what people are doing through labels similar to our own Stoney Lane, Jellymould, F-IRE, LOOP and so on.

I can be sure of a couple of things when the emails arrive.  I will probably not have heard of the band (unless it’s one they’ve introduced to me before) and it will definitely be worth having a listen.  I’ve reviewed a couple for London Jazz News: Arne Torvik here and Wako & Oslo Strings here.  The latest invitation was to listen to a recording by a quartet led by alto saxophonist Signe Emmeluth called Emmeluth’s Amoeba. She’s joined by guitarist Karl Bjord, pianist Christian Balvig and drummer Ole Mofjell on their debut release Polyp, released here in August.

This is firmly located in the free and improvised music territory but weaves an interesting and engaging path between spontaneity and more scripted episodes.  They conjure moods and images with an atmospherically recorded sound. They sound like they are in the same room, listening intently and reacting as the music demands.  Polyp has a stuttering unfolding motif that sax, piano and guitar then develop, weaving around each other.  Magma, more overtly spontaneous, bubbles and boils, Balvig’s piano providing momentum.  Kolibri is a prolonged and furious joust between sax and drums, Emmeluth exploiting multiphonic screeches and swirling runs in equal measure. Ladybug by contrast sounds like a demented calypso with scurrying brush work and phrases bouncing between sax, piano and guitar, before Balvig’s piano and Mofjell’s drums burst into a hurtling, freefall exchange. It’s a great moment

There’s plenty more from this quartet who are finely tuned to each other’s move. Emmeluth’s musical mind and personality are firmly stamped on the set. It may be free, but its no free-for-all with each piece having a distinctive shape and character that the band explore.  It’s an absorbing set and well worth seeking out.  Some information here.  Listen on Spotify here.



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