Final Artistic Presentation: Pond

Final Artistic Presentation: Pond

POND is 1 of 2 albums that are part of the final artistic results for this project. It was released on Hubro, 13th March 2015 and is available on vinyl, CD, download and streaming. Click here to find it. 

These are my reflections on the making of Huntsville's 5th album POND, and my own processes leading up to the recording situation. It is neither an attempt to describe Huntsville’s music as such, nor an attempt to point at developments in the group’s music during my project period.

Huntsville has not been directly involved in my project, neither in interviews, analysis, specific collective tests or rehearsals. Huntsville’s role in my project has been more of a referential arena, an arena for testing out various playing techniques and different approaches to repetitive playing – both the human loop and the machine loop. Huntsville’s 36 concerts and 2 recording sessions during the project period, and my own reflections after this body of work, have been an important part of my practice-based method within the project. A hermeneutic loop of live performances, studio work and reflections, constantly and directly corresponding with and within its naturally evolving habitat – my own playing, my own ideas and approaches have been tested where they should be tested: on the stage and in the studio with the rest of the band.   

Huntsville's 4th album Past Increasing Future Receding was recorded in June 2012, quite early in my research project. At that time I had no clear plan how to involve the band in my project. However, already before my project began, we had planned a couple of tours and one recording situation.

For some time I had struggled a bit with what I best can describe as a one-dimensional relationship between the drummer Ingar Zach’s and my own rhythmical approach. Much of the rhythm-driven music in Huntsville is based around poly-rhythmic combinations of Ingar’s electronics (table machine and drone commander) and his own drumming.  Ingar’s rhythmic approach has been like a strong magnet to my own guitar and banjo picking. I have been lurking around his rhythmic sphere, trying to blend, push, interfere and perhaps even compete a little bit. I believe that part of this focus stems from the fact that one of the origins of the band – the textural combination of the tabla machine (before Ingar got a circuit bend tabla machine) and the banjo – sounded and still sounds so intriguing to me. And that I, from the very start of the three of us playing together as Huntsville, have regarded the tabla and the banjo working together metrically as one of the building blocks in Huntsville’s music. Over the years I have gradually been leaving the banjo more behind, but I have kept much of the same rhythmic approach, only now playing various guitars. Maintaining the rhythmic focus, I have gradually been taking the role of the “accompanying guitarist”, constantly strumming or fingerpicking accompaniment to a somewhat imagined foreground, fully magnetized and locked to Ingar’s rhythmic patterns. This magnetizing attraction for the rhythm, in combination with my interest for linearity in Huntsville, gives me little space. It feels cramped.    

On the first tour during my research project, and on the recording of our 4th album, I ended up playing a lot like this. Despite the very interesting sound qualities on that release (it was recorded in Emanuel Vigelands Mausoleum in Oslo – a room with about 12 seconds loud reverb), and despite the fact that there are some fine pieces of music on that recording, I am not really satisfied with it. I am not really satisfied with my own contribution. Much of it has to do with the troublesome role of the accompanying guitarist. I wanted to get away from this role in Huntsville.

Huntsville bass player Tonny Kluften’s playing has in my view often been contributing to a certain rhythmic polyphony and complexity, especially when he played the double bass. I find this very inspiring. Often, with Ingar’s introduction of the drone commander, another rhythmic layer has been added as a result of the fact that it is not metrically relating to the tabla machine. 

The recording of our 5th album, POND, took place in June 2014. For a while I had been working on a setup for my solo work that involved two guitar amps and an "Electro Harmonix 16 second delay" pedal. This was set so I had the real time signal in one amp, and a delayed signal in the other. Usually set to around 10-12 seconds delay. I also had some small devices that could, in different ways, tamper with both the real time signal and the delayed signal.

This setup arrange a self-dialogue, where I, all the time, have to respond to what I played a while ago and at the same time take part in the dialogue, be it subtly or not, that goes on with the other members. This two-headedness opens up a playground of rhythmic, melodic and harmonic collisions that I find stimulating and inspiring. Entering the studio with Huntsville in June 2014, I didn't really bring a fixed plan of “how to improvise in this recording session." I simply brought the setup I was working on at that time. (See Stop Freeze Wait Eat for further explanations on the setup, and the prepared self-dialogue.)

My self-correspondence, temporally intertwined with the rest of the music somewhat haphazardly, opens a totally new space. It is more multi-dimensional, I am not magnetized by the drums in the same way as before. I am not longer stuck to the accompanying role, or at least, when I play that kind of material, it is much more out of time with the rest. It has its own separate meter. It is more independent. And I believe that the music become more complex. It has more layers. It is more polymetric. I contribute to more complexity, a bit like the double bass and the drone commander mentioned above. I find that this is evident on the opening track ”(ER)” and the damped, bouncing guitar chords on “(AGE)”.

The role of the accompanist is actually not necessarily so bad.
After all, we rarely have soloists to accompany,
we are more collectively accompanying what's going on in the space between us.
Or accompanying an imagined soloist.

In the role of the accompanist, and especially in the role of the one that is also magnetized to Ingar's rhythm, I have problems stopping. And to play with pauses. I am playing never-ending arpeggios. When I listen to it now, in retrospect, I feel they are not ending or halting often enough. On Huntsville's Past Increasing Future Receding these never-ending arpeggios were at least slightly more slack than on previous records and concerts. This is a natural consequence of a generally more elastic meter. But still, they were never ending. The self-dialogue setup I used on POND made it easier and more natural for me to include more stops, halts and pauses in my own playing. Also, several sections on POND are standing still. Hence the title. No water in, no water out. This is most evident on “(ING)” and “(OK)”, and the long build-down and decrescendo on “(ER)”.