Ellen Arkbro – For Organ and Brass

It should be obvious to anyone reading the title of Swedish composer Ellen Arkbro’s debut album For Organ and Brass what they’re going to get, at least in a tonal sense. She takes instruments with a deep, rich tone and timbre, tuba, trombone, horn and organ, instruments usually associated with a dramatic sound, and turns conception this on it’s head, using an understated and minimalist approach using simple repetitive melodies and drones to create a soft and meditative sound on the twenty minute title track on the album. These four instruments sing a soft and harmonised song, each droning note lasting just long enough for the listener to appreciate the rich tone and timbre before shifting pitch and carrying the melody forward once more. It’s slow moving and meditative, but it’s as much about focusing on the rich and powerful textures created by each instrument, as each sound grows slightly in power and insistence towards the end of the track and rewarding deep listening, as it is about this calm atmosphere created. The melody which unravels itself slowly and subtly, another part of this minimal and rewarding journey, is a simple one rooted in jazz, a soft bluesy sound emanating from the intertwining sound of these four instruments used to as soft an effect as you could imagine from these powerful instruments.

The two other pieces Three and Mountain of Air combined are shorter than the title track at eleven and seven minutes respectively. On the former the removal of the organ and the focus of the simple repetitive sound of the brass trio carrying another bluesy melody is soft and easy on the ears, if a little less interesting than the title track with little evolution and growth throughout it’s length as the melody just slows in tempo and volume towards the track’s end. Mountain of Air is more free-form and less structured than the two preceding pieces, the instruments still harmonising gorgeously but the melody less repetitive, resulting in a jazzy soundscape with a much more ambient sound to it, that of a relaxing lullaby.

Overall For Organ and Brass is a great experiment with the sound and timbres of the organ, trombone, tuba and horn in a minimalist and meditative but faintly jazzy forty minutes of interesting and innovative ambient drone.

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