Thursday, December 14, 2006

HUNTSVILLE: For The Middle Class (Rune Grammofon)

HUNTSVILLE
For The Middle Class
RCD2058
Rune Grammofon 2006
04 Tracks. 50mins09secs




Buy it: CD
Huntsville | Rune Grammofon

Experimental country music, now that’s a concept that Norwegian trio Huntsville seem eager to stick their milk teeth into. Not that it represents the bulk of their debut album mind, but the band mention country music as being one of their many influences, and it certainly finds its way into Huntsville’s largely improvised compositions.

Formed by guitarist Ivar Grydeland, multi-instrumentist Tonny Kluften and percussionist Ingar Zach, who have been working together in a variety of outfits since 1998, including improv expanding ensemble No Spaghetti Edition, which they founded, and smaller formation HISS, Huntsville represents a shift from the demanding outputs of previous incarnations to much more refined and hypnotic playgrounds. For The Middle Class shows signs of a somewhat more traditional approach to composition, yet the two main pieces, The Appearance Of A Wise Child and Add A Key Of Humanity, develop from the excellent understanding that these three musicians have of each other.

The album opens on a series of white noise sequences which are progressively swallowed by growing cyclic rhythmic patterns and various interferences. As its hypnotic groove settles and its backdrop becomes less abrasive, The Appearance Of A Wise Child reveals a much warmer set of soundscapes upon which an acoustic guitar draws a hesitant melody. From there on, the piece takes on a slight tribal turn until it finally breaks up. Add A Key Of Humanity is much more melodic from the start. Although occasional coarse electric guitar distortions ripple out in the first section of the track, the mood is here somewhat peaceful and restrained. As the trio bring various elements in and build the runaway train rhythmic backbone of the track, it gains in strength and vivacity. Seven minutes in, making the most of a plateau of relative calm, Grydeland introduces a cyclical plucked banjo theme which sets the track on a completely different course. While Kluften establishes the groove on a tensed bass line in the background and improves the relief of the piece, the banjo becomes for a moment totally overwhelming and gives this track, and the album, a very distinctive flavour. Huntsville might still be miles from developing a form of experimental country music, but this certainly proves a curious and rather thrilling combination of sounds.

The two remaining pieces are much gentler and provide interesting counterpoints to these epic moments. Much shorter and entirely beat-less, Serious Like A Pope and the delightful Melon show Huntsville in a radically different light. On the former, the trio weave an intricate and dense soundscape from drones, electronics and a guitar, with just a sporadic bass marking a cautious beat, while on the latter, it is largely left to Grydeland to generate the haunting theme of the piece on his acoustic guitar. Only discreet layers of treated percussive noises and a monotone electric piano are brought in to bring some substance to this otherwise rather airy closing track.

While it is pretty obvious from the two substantial improvisations here that Huntsville can work from each other and build on their respective strength very well, For The Middle Class is a surprisingly accessible and melodic collection. The band experiment with various music forms in very effective and convincing fashion, making this album yet another flawless addition to the Rune Grammofon catalogue.

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