Thomas Strønen: Lucus (ECM 2576)

2576 X

Thomas Strønen

Thomas Strønen drums
Ayumi Tanaka piano
Håkon Aase violin
Lucy Railton violoncello
Ole Morten Vågen double bass
Recorded March 2017, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: January 19, 2018

Time is a blind guide….
To remain with the dead is to abandon them….
One becomes undone by a photograph,
by love that closes its mouth before calling a name….
–Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces

Since its ECM debut in 2015, drummer and composer Thomas Strønen’s “Time Is A Blind Guide” has grown by apparent parthenogenesis into a project of malleable form. On Lucus, that form assumes a variety of shapes, intersecting in the same limpid pool of night. As a treatment of celestial expressions, the material is as much suggested as composed, trusted to flourish in fortifying hands. Strønen kindly explained to me via email TIABG’s continued growth:

“Time Is A Blind Guide has more and more become an autonomic organism with its own musical life. Different constellations (duos, trios, etc.) appear within the ensemble, and the material is treated with more freedom and stronger interplay. Variations in how the pieces are preformed have grown and a stronger personal language has been developed, to the point where we manage to form ideas into our own world, thus allowing us to widen our musical expression.”

Strønen’s sense of widening expression wraps its amorphous arms around “La Bella,” which by its triangulation of violin (Håkon Aase), cello (Lucy Railton), and malleted drums elicits a feeling of circulation given blood by the piano (Ayumi Tanaka). This quiet yet resolute introduction, itself an awakening into moving imagery, embodies a cinematic process: a projection of light onto uniform surfaces where freedom dances to the tune of a faintly outlined script. “Friday” is potent in this metaphorical regard. From its montage of recollections emerges a story to which only listeners may add a beginning and an end. Bassist Ole Morten Vågen taps into the very spine of this music, while Tanaka’s presence, a relatively new addition to the TIABG nexus born from live performances, is magical in these turns of phrase. Her gestures elicit speech without words. And while there are no solos to speak of, save for Strønen’s narrative stroke of brilliance in “Baka” and Vågen’s intro to “Tension,” as organs of the same body, each has its function, singing with the whole in mind.

“Fugitive Pieces,” referring to the novel from which Strønen adopted the band’s name, is an intimate and poetic character study, given wings by instruments of touch. The title track, too, separates filaments of interpretation from emotional moonbeams. So much of what happens in the horizontal regressions of “Release” or the more detail-oriented rhythms of “Wednesday” is built on foundations wrought in the foundry of live performance:

“We have toured a lot over the past year, having played in the US, Brazil, Japan, and Europe. This, combined with rehearsals, has contributed to the way we play today. We knew the material well and recorded the whole album within a day and a half. The music was written with the acoustics of the studio in mind and that has also lead to us wanting to play more concert halls and larger concert rooms than small clubs.”

Producer Manfred Eicher, as always, had a hand in what transpired, giving that extra puff of wind needed to satisfy even the most tattered feathers:

“I wasn’t surprised but rather happy that Manfred had great belief in the record. He also contributed strongly in studio, communicating ideas and details that shaped the compositions. He quickly understood what I aimed for and was a strong force during the recording.”

If inclinations of that force of, and desire for, space weren’t already apparent, they step forth most boldly in “Truth Grows Gradually” and “Weekend,” both of which unfold as stories told out of time. Like the album as a whole, they are a chronology of the soul, wrapped and unwrapped until nothing but truth remains.

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