Vilde&Inga: Makrofauna (ECM 2371)



Vilde Sandve Alnæs violin
Inage Margrete Aas double bass
Recorded June 2012 at The Norwegian Academy of Music, U1021
Engineer: David Aleksander Sjølie
Mixing and mastering: Guiseppe Ielasi
Produced by Vilde&Inga

Unlike the stage name Vilde&Inga, the first ECM appearance of violinist Vilde Sandve Alnæs and double bassist Inga Margrete Aas is filled with spaces. Within those spaces exists an ecosystem with something to say for any who will listen. In the album’s booklet, the Norwegian duo thanks label mate Sidsel Endresen, with whom they studied improvisation and who was responsible for bringing this music, recorded at The Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, to producer Manfred Eicher’s attention. We can grateful that this acoustically minded granular synthesis should be made so widely available on a label that cares as deeply about its artists as they do about their music.

(Photo credit: Peter Gannushkin)

Whereas some musicians read between the lines, Vilde&Inga read between the veins. It’s as if, rather than training at the academy, they learned their fundamentals in the natural sciences, so anatomically correct is their music. The beauty of that music respires through its very contradiction: one might say it simultaneously begs and vehemently denies the need for specialized nomenclature. However we choose to frame it, there’s something undeniably microscopic about an album called Makrofauna. We feel the creak of every ligament, the thrum of every lumbering step of creatures whose mythology reigns no more but who continue to play servant to the overwhelming architecture of fantasy.

Anchoring us in that fantasy are three tracks labeled “Årringer,” each placed into the soil like a nutrient-rich capsule at a strategic location in the garden. From tendon and timbral extremes to fluttering propeller dream and blustering reset, these brief yet moving stories rewrite themselves into sequel after genetic sequel until the originals are lost in the shuffle. The methods of sound production employed by the musicians—or do the methods employ them?—open their hearts like ecology textbooks, skipping over tables of contents in favor of the indexes. Said methods are not extended techniques in the sense of stretching technologies, but those burrowing deep into the wood of their instruments to reveal voices trapped between the grains. By their unorthodox approach, Vilde&Inga do not stretch limits, but reveal them for what they are.

Vilde&Inga perform in 2014:

Although “Under Bakken” begins the album, it feels more like the closure of a life than the start of one. Harmonics whisper like last testaments, while stiff bones creak at the mere inference of communication. Indeed, friction seems to be the red thread of these spontaneously composed pieces. It is the heart of every action on “Sårand,” in which pizzicato bass harmonics dangle from the violin’s insectile scraping. The squeak of hands rubbed over the bass’s dry skin becomes the uprooting of a tree. The title track further reveals breath itself as friction, marking the scrim between survival and death. A step deeper reveals the sibilance of “Løss,” with barely a note value to be felt, and the mitochondrial respiration of “Røys.” And while elsewhere the meeting of bodies yields discernible pulses (“I Trær”), for the most part we are stuck somewhere between a growl and a purr.

This is not an album of improvisations, but one of spores germinated by touch. The difference is in the details, and what an abundance we can savor on Makrofauna. Taken as a whole, it is but one molecule of infinitely more, an ode to inevitability that emphasizes the sheer amount of concentration required in simply being a physical entity.