SKOGEN – Ist Gefallen In Den Schnee

Another Timbre

To an extent, one can justify a fast infatuation as a first reaction to Ist Gefallen In Den Schnee. Skogen, led by pianist Magnus Granberg, is a septet whose instrumentation comprises strings, electronics, percussion (tuned or less, including bowls and glasses); for this particular recording, they were joined by Angharad Davies on violin and Toshimaru Nakamura on his trademark no-input mixing board. For at least two thirds of the record, the leader’s attempt to integrate issues concerning both improvisation and composition is lucidly configured and, in general, well organized, each participant’s instrumental figure appearing sharply painted, nicely embedded inside the piece’s overall temperament. The listener is instantly drawn into a world of whispered nuances and resonant fluidness, occasionally perturbed by Nakamura’s spurts eliciting a few moments of mild disorderliness amidst what was planned as a reasonably regulated process.

That said, reiterating the experience made me increasingly consider the extant disparity between the music’s unquestionable aesthetic value and its authentic artistic depth. Over a 60-minute arc, the sensation that inevitably materializes after halfway point is that of an interesting conception that has been stretched out quite a bit. Initially, the ethereal threads depicted by the cello and the violins in union with Granberg’s reserved touches are felt like an anamnesis of atmospheres linked to Morton Feldman (indeed mentioned by just everybody, composer and writers alike). During selected central segments, the percussive colours recall another celebrated commonplace of the reviewer’s quote, Harry Partch. The fact is, all of the above appears more “cosmetic feature” than “indispensable substance” to these ears, and – once the acoustic enticement and the graceful unfolding of the whole have been assimilated – we look at the player’s timer several times in the last twenty minutes in a “OK, now what?” frame of mind. The room is still permeated by charming sounds but the mechanisms seem too unvaried, the “fall into the snow” turning into a partial correspondence of single-voice soliloquies – restrained, yes – rather than looking as a functional arrangement. In extreme synthesis, textural collectivity wins a comfortable decision against compositional worth.

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