The Penalty Post

Dec 28, 2014

Inspired by a friend (Eirik Myhr) I hereby submit my very own «Penalty Post». This is in fact the reason I chose to call the updating section of my site a «journal» rather than a «blog». Somehow (to me at least, as I'm entirely aware of my unrealistic multitasking perspective) this would perhaps cut me some slack if the situation required me to go completely AWOL, prioritizing diapers and scores, rather than updating the website. So it went - so here we go:


Following the release of our third trio album - Northern Tapes (nov 2013), we’ve naturally been touring with this album for a number of gigs throughout 2014. In addition to a great line of norwegian reviews, quite a few reviews have been posted in english, perhaps notably this 4,5-star review by John Kelman for and this one written Dave Sumner for

Since Northern Tapes in the end turned out to include far more post production than our earlier releases (ie album ending Lillesara, literaly built brick by brick in the studio, spanning several sessions) we’ve had great fun trying to incorporate and include the different elements that showed crucial from the album production in our live performances. This meant including Erik’s quirky drum machines, my RC-50 loop station and quite a bit of brain work on how to trigger forms, backgrounds, in which tempos and on which cues. (One of the more peculiar things that occured in this process was the fact that one or more of Erik’s drum machines doesn’t actually play the right bpm - ie 115 would in fact equal something like 115,8135 (according to Pro Tools and similar DAW’s.))


One of the notable projects we did abroad with the trio this year was meeting and playing with a group of fantastic Spanish musicians, fronted by bass player Pablo Martín Caminero and guitarist Josemi Carmona. (Check out the video below to see what that was all about!)



Early spring 2012 I was notified by Tor Dalaker Lund at Kongsberg Jazz Festival (NO) I was to be the lucky winner of the annual Kongsberg/DNB Musician Award 2012 (the biggest non-applicable annual jazz grant in Norway) - of which, the recipient is obliged to return the year after with a commissioned concert premiere. Immediately, I started working on what was to become my most comprehensive and hardest work so far.

Despite our (and obviously my) anticipation, combined with a confident and well-prepared concert - and ultimately a great reception from the attending audience, the concert somewhat still left me and my co-players Petter Vågan, Ole Morten Vågan, Erik Nylander and Even Helte Hermansen with an unsatisfactory sense of «what now?» The extreme intensity of the work we had put into the concert, nearly a month of rehearsals, and even rehearsing at the venue all the way up until the doors opened that night in July 2013 at Kongsberg Cinema, just might have strangled the last percents of crucial spontaneus energy needed to put on a show as ambitious as this was. I don’t generally think there is such thing as over-working any material, but as the work chronology of every project has a golden ratio, one needs to know when to let go of the kite. (Below: "Dualist", the final album version, Part 2/3, I. movement)


The «what now»-notion didn’t seem to let go as months flew by the following fall, and the eager to bring the project «home» got stronger. In the end, a string of events made this possible. As I was commissioned to make an arrangement for The Trondheim Soloists of «The Day Before You Came» (by ABBA), based on the arrangement we had started working on as a trio with Kirsti Huke (vocals) and Erik Nylander (drums), I got in touch with their artistic director Øyvind Gimse. Øyvind (who besides leading the Soloists is an absolutely amazing cellist, with a wide range of genres and artist collaborations on his résumé) approached me after our premiere of the arrangement in Trondheim, January 2014, with an informal request for us to expand our collaboration at some point. -This was my shot, so I set up a meeting literally the day after with the Trondheim Chamber Music Festival’s director Vegard Snøfugl, it’s artistic director (and also great violinist of the Soloists) Sigmund Tvete Vik and Øyvind Gimse. The idea naturally hit the table way too late for it to fit any of the existing budgets for that year’s festival. Despite this, we decided to put the wheels in motion.

Two months, and a completely over-the-top composing-workload later, we were at the Ocean Sound Studios (my favourite studio) with the band. Although I had the outline for the project along with many parts written up, the project was still somewhere around halfway completed. This meant I had to pull all my movie moviescoring «chops» to make sure we got enough recorded material for the project to survive through the next recording session with the orchestra, leaving me with sufficient options. This meant we had to record an almost infinite amount of alternative endings, openings, sections, grooves and overdubs. The Pro Tools-session (the recorded files) I brought home after five intense days of recording was close to 300GB - any tech savvy musician would know that taking on a PT-session like that is gonna be one hell of a puzzle. But just over 6 months later, on September 27, after endless hours of post production (at that point naturally including the Trondheim Soloists, recorded at the wonderful Øra Studio in Trondheim), we finally had the album in hand, and could premiere the brand new and rewritten works with a live performance at the Trondheim Chamber Music Festival. 

Throughout the entire process of making the Mechanical Fair, I had somewhat something maybe resembling an obsession with Igor Stravinsky’s «Rite of Spring». I wouldn’t argue if some were to suggest that the piece, at least partially, emerges as a hommage to Stravinsky’s masterpiece. Given that premise, I’d like to emphasize: it is done with the greatest humility.


From the concept was conceived in 2012 and all the way through to the finished release in Sep’14, The Mechanical Fair was built on a number of specific conceptual ideas and dogmas. I pictured it as a ostensibly abandoned, somewhat surreal theme park. We would attempt reviving it through the concoction of a sort of naive, organic «goodwill» (the cordial protagonist (perhaps the listener, essentially)) and an ever increasing amount of mechanical elements (the aggravating antagonist, at least initially.) At times, especially in the opening sequences, I wanted the mechanical elements to seemingly work against the music, but as the organic and mechanic elements close in on each other, mechanical elements would really prove to be working entirely with the music all along, by approaching an aligned state with the organic, leaving the impression it got there using it’s own logic. As I find the concept of tension/suspense versus release to be the very essence of any storytelling art form, I tried amplifying this by the ubiquitous presence of the above mentioned «antagonist» throughout the entire piece. This is the basic principles and the building blocks for The Mechanical Fair. (below: the very first visual draft of the opening of the works. Actually forgot about this, but find it satisfactory that I seemed to have stayed true to this.)

Elaborating on an even more detailed level (nerdyalert!), here are some of the additional dogmas and principles:

-Drum machines being the sole exception, the instrumentation is entirely acoustic. Any effects heard ie. on guitars are restricted to a small fan a piece rubber replacing the wings («Mechanical Fair») and an eBow («Metamechanics».) Both mechanical effects to generate legato-like tones. In addition, the guitars use other preparations such as metal clips, metal objects etc to vary the sound.

-The guitars are to be utilized in combination, resembling one instrument, in a harp like fashion.

-Not a single standard chord or traditional guitar voicing were allowed until the works’ finale; Metamechanics. This piece inverts the dogma, and lets Even carry out the harmonic grid, utilizing the instrument with a far more traditional approach (with the acoustic baritone guitar as the main engine.)

-The works’ parts and bigger form should not be based on a relative, symmetrical «Western» form (verse, refrain/chorus etc), but rather be based on a progressive, narrative and asymmetrical concept, both partially and throughout the whole works.

Seeing as The Mechanical Fair is an incredibly expensive project to put on the road, with 24 musicians on stage, sound engineer (Tor Breivik), visual artist (Pekka Stokke) and lightning technician, the possibilities to put up another show is limited. But I’ve been given signals we might be able to set it up once again at some point in 2015, or at least in 2016. We’re also looking at the possibilities to strip down the lineup to meet budget limitations, but still it will mean a lineup of at least 14 musicians on stage, along with the rest of the crew. But most importantly: the album is finally out there, the music now finally and officially «exists» - and that alone makes me really, really happy. And of course we’re happy the album just got nominated for the Norwegian Grammy (Spellemann) in the jazz category!


Alongside touring with the new trio reportoire, and working with The Mechanical Fair, several new projects found it’s way into my calendar. In january we released the album Obsolete Music 1 (sic) with our group Gammalgrass - the recorded manifesto of the long-time collaboration I have with Stian Carstensen (accordion, banjo etc) and Ole Morten Vågan (bass.) The album contains, with a few exceptions, a collection of mostly pre-war reportoire, alongside a swedish polka, an epic melody by David Bowie and an original compostion that I wrote for the group. This album also just got nominated for the Norwegian Grammy (Spellemann) in the mixed genres category!


The first few months 2014 also included the initiation of concept-building and in time the first few recordings of my duo with the great singer, improviser and composer Kirsti Huke. As some may know, me and Kirsti have had an active duo concept for a a few years already, though still without a proper studio recording out. The initial process led us to invite my long-time collaborator (+great friend and literaly; brother in arms) Erik Nylander to join us on drums and production. As the live concept of our duo mostly has been founded on a loop principle (initiate+add+trigger elements = build an «orchestra» on the fly,) we both felt that even though this is a natural way of working live, at least when there’s just the two of us, adding Erik Nylander to the mix enabled us basically to reset the whole concept. Maybe similar to life itself (oooh,) I often find myself to look toward relative opposites in the chronology of my projects. Just as the completion of «Liarbird» (most comprehensive project to that date) enabled me to find the inspiration for the far more intimate Northern Tapes, this new album with Kirsti & Erik, following my over-the-top 23-piece orchestral piece «The Mechanical Fair», now makes perfect sense to strip down to its bare essentials. The album is still in recording and production, and will hopefully be ready to be released fall 2015.


Another mentionable project was a studio recording with Norwegian singer/songwriter Kjell Reianes, a late bloomer in terms of releasing albums, releasing his first album Aldri For Seint («Never Too Late») by the age of 61 a couple of years ago. On his follow-up album, his son-in-law Janove Ottesen (Kaizers Orchestra frontman extraordinaire and co-player/producer in this case) once again summoned a great line of musicians to an intense but wonderful studio session, spanning 5 days at the great-sounding ABC Studio (skillfully handled by Stig Morten Sørheim) in March. The album, scheduled to be released early 2015, includes a lineup consisting of Mads Berven on guitars (Ralph Myerz & The Jack Herren Band), Jarle Vespestad on drums (Farmers Market, Tord Gustavsen, Silje Nergaard), Eirik Are Oanæs Andersen on bass (Christiansand String Swing Ensemble++), myself on violin, mandolin, viola & piano, Janove Ottesen on piano, guitar, percussion, and Reianes himself on vocals and guitar. Reianes ability to make a simple, yet sophisticated melody combined with Janove’s beautifully crafted production truly was a great inspiration to me.


During summer I also joined Thomas Dybdahl, an absolutely stunning singer/songwriter (and pop star, mind you) with whom I spent a lot of time with on the road in my brief period as a member of his band in 2008. Together with his fabulous group, The Great October Sound, we did an outdoor performance at the a spectacular Romsdal Museum at Molde Jazz Festival. The rain was pouring down, but the audience kept cool - and gave us a warm welcome!

(Photo from Romsdals Budstikke, by Erik Birkeland)

Also, I got the opportunity to play with Odd Nordstoga’s band at two festivals this summer, subbing for the great David Wallumrød. Now I’ve been a fan of Nordstoga’s for years - his tunes, and his ability as a songwriter goes way beyond catchy hooks and lyrics: just about every single song of his has this one little genius twist or turn to it, like the way he turns a phrase the opposite direction or a surprising harmonic modulation. Also, I find a lot of common ground with Odd as his music is strongly influenced by Norwegian folk music. Again - intense and inspiring.

(Photo by Finn-Ulrik Berntsen/Twitter)

After a brief period composing/recording a partial score for the upcoming Norwegian comedy feature film Stayin’ Alive (by Charlotte Blom) this fall, I headed out on two final tours before heading home for Christmas. First one was a brief tour through Spain and Portugal with The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & Eirik Hegdal featuring Joshua Redman. Always a huge inspiration to play with this group, and of course the privilege of hearing Josh up close yet again. Also, finally got to see some of Gaudi’s masterpieces firsthand - truly astonishing!

The last tour of 2014 was with Ingebrigt Håker Flaten Chicago Sextet, the sole remaining jazz-related smaller group I’ve stayed in as a sideman (ever since the premiere at Kongsberg Jazz Festival in 2004.) The lineup consists of Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Jasper Stadhouders, Jason Adasiewicz, Frank Rosaly and Dave Rempis - all super-strong individual players. Ingebrigt’s music is really flexible, and contains long sections of free improvisation. I still consider free improvisation an almost impossible art form to master, hell even to master as a listener. Still representing a musical left-turn for me, playing with these guys is admittedly initially hat-in-hand for me, but ultimately hugely inspiring.

Now I am looking forward to spend the first four months of next year at home, looking after my close to one-year old son Oskar. As I’ve just bought a Ludwig 1962 drum set, obviously the two of us will spend our days well..!

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