Beauties brings together two idiosyncratic, experimental duos and forms one ecstatic organism – the Berlin-based Beam Splitter of American vocal artist and electronics player Audrey Chen and Norwegian trombonist and electronics player Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø, who have been working as a duo since 2015 and are also partners in life, and the Norwegian duo Streifenjunko of trumpeter Eivind Lønning (who has worked before with Nørstebø in Norwegian sax player Mette Henriette self-titled, debut album, ECM, 2019) and tenor sax and electronics player Espen Reinertsen (who also mixed this album, and before mixed Nørstebø’s second solo album, Melting Into Foreground, Sofa Music, 2015) who have been working together for twenty years now and playing together in n the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble. This ad-hoc quartet was recorded over two days at Flerbruket in rural Hemnes, Norway, in March 2021, but performed before with a commissioned work or the Asphalt Festival in Düsseldorf in 2018. Nørstebø also took the cover photo.
The two duos were closely miked in order to merge their acoustic sound sources with external analog and digital electronics. For mixing clarity, the four musicians were scattered around the old wooden house building (a former school). This setting offered a physical, tangible starting point for a multidimensional and seemingly infinite sound world, that perfectly fits these four sonic searchers who continuously push the boundaries of their respective instruments. The two pieces in the debut album of the quartet – «Vessel» and «Full Moon» – were recorded in real-time without additional editing or processing. Both pieces highlight the great sensitivity of the four musicians to every sound, raw, naked, shaped spontaneously or thoughtfully processed, in deep listening interaction and within the distinct space of Flerbruket. These pieces sound evocative and otherworldly, like dream-like textures that blur the distinction between the acoustic and electronic sounds, rich with detail and sonic imagination and surprisingly touching.
Solo Norwich documents Nørstebø’s grand finale performance of a thirteen-date solo tour in the United Kingdom and Ireland in April 2023, where he played amplified trombone, analog ribbon synth – monotron, with feedback and sound files. The performance took place in a big empty industrial space with a metal space, The Shoe Factory, with a good reverb when playing acoustically. The unique acoustics of this pace allowed Nørstebø to experiment and exhaust the amplified trombone’s palette of sounds, like producing strange and crazy fluttering reflections that he could manipulate, especially with punchy bass sounds, or transforming the trombone into an alien sound generator that shapes and mutates streams of air. He does so, like in Beauties, with a great focus on detail, enigmatic drama and with a rich imagination. Nørstebø concluded that this tour, with its wide range of spaces and situations, and tons of train rides and delays, felt like a boot camp tour he wanted for developing and pushing his solo setup further. Clearly, he succeeded.
Audrey Chen (voice, electronics), Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø (trombone, electronics, amplified trombone, monotron, feedback, sound files), Eivind Lønning (trumpet, electronics), Espen Reinertsen (tenor saxophone, electronics)