Jøkleba: Outland (ECM 2413)

Outland

Jøkleba
Outland

Per Jørgensen trumpet, vocals, kalimba, flute
Jon Balke electronics, piano
Audun Kleive electronics, drums, percussion
Recorded May 2014 at Madstun, Fall and Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineers: Audun Kleive and Jan Erik Kongshaug
Mixed by Audun Kleive
Mastered by Bob Katz
Produced by Jøkleba
Release date: October 24, 2014

Is it the sea you hear in me,
Its dissatisfactions?
Or the voice of nothing, that was your madness?
–Sylvia Plath, “Elm”

Although Per Jørgensen (trumpet, vocals, kalimba, flute), Jon Balke (electronics, piano), and Audun Kleive (electronics, drums, percussion) had already made four albums as Jøkleba before debuting on ECM under that same name, each musician had been involved in numerous other productions for the label. That said, this set of literarily themed improvisations leaves its own set of fingerprints, the whorls of which are spectral in range. By the second track, “Bell Jar,” itself a saline flush of digital impulses and organic trumpeting, the listener will know whether leaving or staying feels like the right thing to do.

To be sure, there’s much to admire here. From the visceral mountain calls in “Blind Owl” and “Horla” to the moonlit twinges of “The Nightwood” and “Below The Vulcano,” this trio knows how to craft a mood from scratch with cinematic lucidity. And while each musician contributes a personal energy throughout, for me it’s Jørgensen as vocalist who links the most creative chains. He plays the trumpet as if it were his own voice and sings as if his throat were honed in brass. The album’s most intriguing passages are his to carry. “Brighton,” for example, unfolds with the cadence of a Butoh dance, rich with meaning in the subtlest of movements.

Amid these abstractions, the appearance of piano and drums in “Rodion” feels like an oasis in the desert. “One Flew Over” gives further traction to the keyboard, and by that deference hints at something more pre than post. By the end, we’re left with a slipstream narrative that neither fulfills a promise nor answers a question. And perhaps that’s the way they prefer it.

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