The fascination of American experimental guitarist-master improviser-label owner-photographer-professional diver Henry Kaiser with Norway and its culture began almost thirty years. Kaiser and fellow guitarist David Lindley collaborated with then young and promising guitarist Knut Reiersrud to explore the distinct and diverse folk traditions of Norway on «The Sweet Sunny North» (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Shanachie, 1994 and 1996). More recently, Kaiser initiated and produced the tribute albums to Norwegian legendary gitarist Terje Rypdal, «Sky Music» (Rune Grammofon, 2017), inviting innovative guitarists as Bill Frisell, David Torn, Nels Cline, Raoul Björkenheim and Jim O’rourke as well as Norwegian guitarists Even Helte Hermansen, Hans Magnus Ryan and Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen to contribute to this project.
In 2019 Kaiser initiated another project, this time with Norwegian guitarist Ivar Grydeland, known from the groups Huntsville and Dans Les Arbres. Both Kaiser and Grydeeland were familiar with each other’s work, but met for the first time only in January 2019 in a studio in Oslo. They decided immediately to record a guitar duet based on a Norwegian silent movie. After setting their gear, Kaiser offered the 1925 documentary film «Ellsworths flyveekspedition 1925» about the 1925 heroic expedition of Norwegian Roald Amundsen to the North Pole (the expedition was financed by American multimillionaire Lincoln Elsworth). One hour and 56 minutes later Kaiser And Grudeland put down their guitars and shook their heads in wonder. They had played for the entire length of the film without breaks, 65 minutes of this new soundtrack are captured on «In The Arctic Dreamtime».
Kaiser and Grydeland succeeded to create a profoundly suggestive and enigmatic, cinematic experience. Both have their very own distinct sound. Kaiser employs many effects and often has a dramatic, psychedelic-distorted tone while Grydeland’s tone is more reserved, ethereal and minimalist as if he limits himself only to the necessary notes. But these distinct voices compliment and correspond magically – literally – with each other, especially on the atmospheric yet moving «Spitsbergen», and the fragile and dreamy «To the North Pole», as if both following the shamanic practices of the Inuit that Amundsen had met in his journey to the North Pole. Kaiser and Grydeland extended soundscapes also invoke a sense of dream-time out of real time, illuminating not only their own exceptional and inspiring sonic experience, a unique, but also their conception of shamanic time through and within music and, naturally, an important and heroic chapter of Norwegian history, shamanic time.
Beautiful and inspiring dive into the Arctic dreamtime. Already now, a strong candidate for one of the best albums of 2020.
Ivar Grydeland (g), Henry Kaiser (g)