Kommun is the new ensemble of Swedish experimental guitarist Finn Loxbo and its debut album Ephemeralds suggest a distinct development in the guitarist’s compositional practice. This ensemble features pianist Lisa Ullén, double bass player Vilhelm Bromander and Chicagoan but now Stockholm-based percussionist Ryan Packard, all are composers and bandleaders. Ephemeralds was recorded at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm in May 2022.
Ephemeralds offers one, 36-minute composition aiming at dissolving individual musical identities into an intensely focused, collective sound world of resolute clarity. The four musicians were instructed to manipulate a collection of tightly stipulated pitch material while bringing the shared timbral qualities of each instrument into close proximity. True to its title, this dissolution of individual musical identities happened without relying on a blur of sustained tones.
The highly disciplined composition suggests an elusive and vulnerable beauty and a mysterious and highly immersive listening experience. There is a subtle, precarious assemblage of rhythmic co-dependence and dynamics that stress the resonance of the guitar strings with the keys and strings of the piano, the strings of the double bass and the light percussive touches. Loxbo wanted to turn the act of listening to Ephemeralds into one that both invokes and displaces memories – of the ensemble and the listeners alike. Phrases and combinations may slip away at the very point they coalesce creating a feeling of simultaneous movement and suspension-in-place where everything happens at the moment but nothing really happens and nothing happens in the moment of everything happening. This intriguing composition demands repeated listening but guarantees rare, transient beauty.
Fellow Swedish bass clarinetist-composer Erik Blennow Calälv uses the fine services of Ullén, Loxbo (with whom he recorded before a duo (Snow Country, Creative Sources, 2017) and Packard, who adds subtle electronics to his percussion, for Bi, In yo & Iwato, three pieces based on traditional Japanese scales. These pieces are minimalist, delicate and meditative, performed beautifully with an austere, ritualist spirit, as if asking the listener to focus deeply on each note and each sonic articulation and appreciate its resonating, slow-shifting transient qualities. Blennow Calälv deepens further the intriguing meditative atmosphere by playing the bass clarinet as close to the whispering range of the shakuhachi bamboo flute, often associated with Zen Buddhism, while Ullén and Loxbo sometimes play the piano and the guitar in a way that brings to mind the pentatonic sonic spectrum of a koto. Packard’s electronics intensify this arresting and mysterious atmosphere.
Finn Loxbo (g), Lisa Ullén (p), Vilhelm Bromander (b), Ryan Packard (perc, elec), Erik Blennow Calälv (bcl)