One of the strongest albums of this year…
Jasper Høiby: bass, electronics; Josh Arcoleo: saxophone; Marc Michel: drums
Recorded 26th-28th October 2021 by August Wanngren at Tornado Studio, Copenhagen
The irony of the band’s name is that we have no planet B – if we don’t look after the one we have there is not an alternative. On this sequence of recordings, Høiby considers questions of global significance: climate change, artificial intelligence, monetary reform, humanity. This album explores ‘humanity’ through compositions that are sparked by quotations from Rub Sales, Grace Lee Boogs, Jane Goodall.
The title track used Sales’ observation that “…we live in a very diverse world, and to talk about what it means to be humans is to talk with the simultaneous tongue of universality and particularities.” The last part of this quotation could almost sum up Høiby’s approach to composition: each piece contains finely chiselled melodic lines and these are wrapped in broad swatches of sound.
His bass resonates across each piece, less as a time-keeper or chord-indicator and more as a sage guiding the progress and direction of the tune. At times, his bass lines, like in ‘One Voice’, seem to combine musical styles and thinking from Eastern and Western traditions in the ways in the drawing out of arco notes. Against this, Michel’s acrobatic drum patterns provide commentary and discussion of the directions that Høiby offers.
As a rhythm section, they are less concerned with defining a strict tempo for the piece and more with combining to produce a shifting platform on which Høiby’s electronic washes and arco bass playing, and Arcoleo’s swooping saxophones lines can land and from which these can take flight.
Even when the metre of a piece, say on ‘Earthness’ might appear grounded in a particular time signature, the interplay of the bass and drums make this fluid and the saxophone follows the bass patterns before launching into digressions of its own.
Listening to the music, it is easy to become totally immersed in the clarity and beauty of the playing. This is testament to the musicianship of the players, of course, but also to the strength of convictions that underline each piece. The words of the women that Høiby has used to provide meaning for each piece merges so cleanly with the tune that these feel less like interruptions or introductions to the piece than dedications and explanations of them.
This album gives plenty of food for thought in the powerful messages of the spoken extracts but also a great deal of poignant emotional response to these in the music. One of the strongest albums of this year and a very welcome addition to Høiby’s canon.
Reviewed by Chris Baber