You know me, I tend towards feisty rackets that like to start arguments with their own shadows, but like everyone, I do like to step back from the fray now and again. One of my go to musicians for that is Norwegian trumpet maestro Arve Henriksen, so when this album arrived with his name on it, in a paring with German electro-acoustic composer J. Peter Schwalm, it was, as they say (who are “they”, anyway?), a no-brainer.
Arve Henriksen, who has played with just about everyone on the Norwegian avant and jazz scenes, as well as with several internationally known names such as David Sylvian, Laurie Anderson, and John Paul Jones, and who is also an integral member of avant-jazz band Supersilent, should not need that introduction. J. Peter Schwalm on the other hand may be a lesser-known quantity, but he too has an impressive pedigree, having worked with Brian Eno, as well as writing film soundtracks, and creating “a multi-channel sound installation in the crater of the Volcano del Cuervo on the Spanish island of Lanzarote”! He has released four albums under his own name to date.
Created remotely from around the time of the first wave of worldwide lockdowns in the wake of Covid-19, Arve’s trumpet parts and J. Peter’s music were woven together in hours of post production by the latter, and the revealed whole conveys an unsettled air, the ground is subtly shifting.
Arve’s Henriksen has a distinctive and recognisable trumpet style all of his own. It is a rarefied waveform, one that executes a delicate yet powerful pull on the soul. While calming, it is far from being soporific, and does not aim for a floatation tank ambience beloved of a certain kind of music that is all too common in the chill-out room. Arve’s sound is very organic, and occasionally the noise his trumpet makes is so much like a human voice, that one can easily convince oneself it is having a conversation with one’s own inner turmoil, bringing it to a natural state of rest.
The other half of the musical yin and yang of Neuzeit, J. Peter Schwalm, provides acoustic and electronic backings that range from contemplative piano to restless but never strident electronica, and married to Arve’s trumpet, percussion, and occasional vocalisations, make for an atmosphere that appears to shimmer at the edges, adding an indistinct, crackling, uncertain undercurrent in tune with these odd times we live in. Time, and its passing, that is what this album is all about, or as J. Peter describes it “Neuzeit reflects the time of change after a crash”.
The opening track, Blütezeit, is skittishly driven by jittery electronics, and is eventually joined by Arve’s muted, considered trumpet playing. Suchzeit is all about the space between the notes, the sparse minimalism eventually blossoming into subtle glory. The title track is an eerie thing where a hymnal harmony of Arve’s multi-tracked voice, redolent of wartime European ghettos, is accompanied by a fast tapping nervous tic of a beat, and an electronic rhythm that sounds like a car starter motor repeatedly failing to turn over. The contrast of these quiet extremes is strange, yet compelling. In total contrast, following that is Raumzeit, where a temporary equilibrium is achieved, Arve’s quiet yearning sighing from somewhere over the border of an altered state, and all seems to be at peace. The album rises and falls in this manner until the final track Zeitnah comes to a resolution and finds its own inner peace, a fitting end to a fulfilling and unique 49 minutes of introspective soul searching.
01. Blütezeit (5:56)
02. Suchzeit (5:27)
03. Neuzeit (8:03)
04. Raumzeit (7:10)
05. Schonzeit (5:53)
06. Unzeit (3:53)
07. Wellenzeit (7:11)
08. Zeitnah (5:17)
Total Time – 48:53
J. Peter Schwalm – Piano, Drums, Electronics, Programming
Arve Henriksen – Trumpets, Percussion, Voices
Record Label: RareNoise Records
Countries of Origin: Germany | Norway
Date of Release: 27th November 2020