Following 2018’s Elvesang (one of that year’s finest), Norwegian bassist Sigurd Hole returns with an even deeper solo session, recorded on a small island off the northern coast of Norway. Inspired by the surroundings, Hole often recorded with the studio door left open and sometimes even outside. As David Rothenberg observes in his liner notes, there’s something both primal and rare going on here—a willingness to speak with, rather than at, nature.
Although its 18 tracks are divided down the middle into suites of Light (Lys) and Darkness (Mørke), we could easily read one into the other. In Light, we encounter the inward arpeggios of “Skygge” (Shadow), just as in Darkness we stumble across the vast terrains of “Refleksjon” (Reflection). As dots in an aural yin yang, they are masterstrokes of one who intimately knows the inner life of his instrument. Aside from one traditional song, his subliminal folktales come from the heart.
Hole is a painterly musician in the truest sense—that is, one who isn’t afraid to call upon every brush and palette knife at his disposal. In most cases, he seems interested in examining the harmonic possibilities of the bass, drawing out hidden and elusive shades of color in the process. Prime examples include “Trestein” (Woodstone), “Årringer” (Growth rings) and “Bølge” (Wave), in which Hole opens his bow like a poet would a journal, setting pen to paper without filter.
Thus, Hole unravels until his emotions sing in a way that sidesteps the need for highlighted analysis. The more one listens, the more one feels each track as a vital organ of the whole. And while you may not walk away with discernible melodies on the brain, you will have in your possession something far more indelible: a feeling that you have known the texture of a soul.
(This review originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of The New York City Jazz Record, a full PDF of which is available here.)