n this low-key and lovely outing, Supersilent trumpeter Arve Henriksen leads a trio through a set of lush off-kilter tunes, enhanced by liberal use of sampling (mostly to inject enchanting female vocals, singing presumably in Norwegian) and subtle electronic pulses. Henriksen’s music hovers on a spectral plane somewhere between jazz, “world” music rhythms, and the ecstasy-comedown of post-rave ambient. Judging by the song titles and artwork, Henriksen himself would doubtless prefer painterly references over pharmacological ones, and there’s certainly plenty of justification for it. In fact, Chiaroscuro sounds exactly as studied and careful as its name would suggest, each gentle trumpet blur or swatch of electronics swiping across the soundfield like a sharp brushstroke on canvas. It’s music of simplicity—the juxtaposition of haunting vocal melodies against a somber, icy musical backdrop—that derives a kind of sweeping majesty from its modest gestures.
Of course, all metaphors aside, Chiaroscuro is in many ways a less abstract extension of Supersilent’s own music, tottering like Henriksen’s full-time band between chilly stoicism and genuine emotional expression. The cold undercurrents of the music are in the serene flow of synth ambience and the gentle percolating of the rhythms. Up front, Henriksen’s trumpet is sometimes blended into the surrounding cold, but more often his warm tone stands out, its voicings holding a melancholy fire that suitably warms up the music with emotion and power. Likewise, when sampler Jan Bang provides those haunting female vocals, a different kind of melancholy is present, one colder and more at home in the windblown tundra of this album, but equally affecting.
This give and take—fire and ice, sturm und drang—continues throughout Chiaroscuro, but the results remain smooth and easily digestible. And this might be the only complaint lobbed against Henriksen’s album, though it’s one he’d probably dismiss as irrelevant. Still, it’s hard not to wish for some of the disruptive edginess that Supersilent’s other players bring to their own music, always keeping a group balance between their individual impulses. Here, Henriksen’s muse is allowed to take him where it will on his own, which makes for an interesting, enjoyable, but ultimately light record.
Reviewed by: Ed Howard
Reviewed on: 2004-07-30