Arctic Ice Music – Howard Meeting Room, Leeds
Chef: Terje Isungset
It is not often that a reviewer feels entitled to approach his work in a spirit of mild bewilderment, but Arctic ice music is something outside of our experience, often thrilling, but difficult to assess. This UK premiere kicks off a short tour of a project that fits perfectly with the overused word ‘unique’.
Terje Isungset makes and plays ice instruments – that is, Norwegian ice instruments – quite unusual in itself, but for Arctic ice music he surrounded himself with three throat singers, two Inuit and one from Siberia, a Sami singer, a jazz / folk singer from Norway and two jazz instrumentalists from Norway and Sweden. While this isn’t standard UK fare, even in an adventurous location like the Howard, it’s no surprise that individuals and groups separately are making their mark. What is amazing is that sometimes Isungset molds them into a homogeneous unit without losing their individuality.
The concert begins with the rolling of ice instruments, mostly substantial objects, all wrapped up to avoid melting. Then the unaccompanied singers enter one after the other with haunting songs, gradually joined by the instrumentalists. As for the ice instruments, they are discovered one by one by a wonderfully competent and discreet assistant. Later, two ice horns will produce scary or plaintive sounds resembling animals, but at first percussion predominates, a basic scraping rhythm or an ice xylophone (marimba?) With a glorious bell timbre.
Isungset produces remarkable solos on these instruments, but even more impressive is its use in groups. For example, he sets the pace for what is otherwise a typically Scandinavian jazz trio: Maria Skranes singing with crystal-clear purity, Lyder Overas Roed’s trumpet and flugel giving an impression of space in her playing on the register. superior, Viktor Reuter perpetuating the great Scandinavian tradition of the double bass – rich and melodic.
It is fascinating to discover two different traditions of throat singing. Radik Tyulyush, part of the Tuvan tradition in Siberia, rumbles in caves without measure for Man while Inuit singers Akinisie Sivuarapik and Emily Sallualuk set up exciting counter rhythms. Meanwhile, Sami singer Sarah Marielle Gaup Beaska ranges from acute sensitivity to savage attack.
The most striking parts of a well-rehearsed and always atmospheric program are when all of these disparate, but united elements come together, with Isungset taking his cow horn (if it sounds) on a tour of the stage bringing all the performers in. tower or Tyulyush posing an almost underground bass for others to build interlocking patterns.
On tour in England