ELLEN ARKBRO – For Organ And Brass


Apparently, Swedish Ellen Arkbro does have aces in her sleeve to become seriously considered in the field of minimalistic dronage. Studies with La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela – the extent of which I’d love to further scrutinize – and already reasonable doses of coverage in the appropriate environments. The candid juvenile look transpiring from Arkbro’s pictures doesn’t hurt, either.

The vinyl edition of For Organ And Brass comprises the 20-minute title track in addition to a shorter piece called “Three”. The digital version also features “Mountain Of Air”, perhaps the most enjoyable chapter overall. Everything revolves around extremely simple chordal writing theoretically enhanced by the slightly destabilizing effect of microtonal tuning.

Now, in this writer’s limited vision the latter works at its maximum power when the pitches remain in place for a longer time, possibly in combinations capable of authentically moving a listener’s inside. In the harmonic sequences heard throughout this record – rather straightforward and repetitive – the trick does not succeed.

Especially in “Three” boredom kicks in after much less than expected, whereas the longest score benefits – at least – from the intrinsic strength of the organ’s lower frequencies. This warrants a few shifts across resonant avenues potentially leading towards stirring sonorities.

Instead, we never get away from the initial steps. And it’s not sufficient for me to say that this music is as good as someone would like us to believe. As of today, in terms of artistic relevance we classify it a level above Philip Glass’ more lightweight materials.

Particularly laughable, in that regard, is a comparison found on Tiny Mix Tapes relating this stuff to “Jean-Luc Guignent” (Guionnet, they probably meant, after having overheard that name somewhere).

I do not want to sound overly acerbic. There will be additional chances for Arkbro to showcase her compositional skills. Yet, in keeping with our trademark realism, the dissertations read elsewhere – desperately attempting to attribute a measure of depth to the release – are here translated as follows: too little substance, not even inflated by the selection of the instrumental hues.

In a nutshell, these fruits are not ripe enough. Deep down in their heart, Young and Zazeela will agree.

For the moment, I’m sticking with Folke Rabe.

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