O is the Norwegian, Oslo-based duo of singer-songwriter-guitarist Helen Louise Solberg and viola da gamba player Inga Margrete Aas, who host on their debut album, «Firstness» (a concept borrowed from the American philosopher Charles S. Peirce, described as «an instance of that kind of consciousness which involves no analysis, comparison or any process whatsoever (…) It has its own quality which consists of nothing else») drummer Jan Martin Gismervik. This duo has developed its distinct aesthetics with a flexible line-up in a series of live performances before teaming with Gismervik and entering the studio in January 2020. The album is released on a TDK SA60 High Bias tape plus a download option.
O translates Peirce’s concept into unanalyzed and instantaneous poetic textures. The trio sketches fragmented, folk-like songs blended with experimental, acoustic free-form textures, and in leisured dynamics. The four songs highlight the unorthodox and repetitive acoustic guitar patterns of Solberg and her dreamy, unassuming vocal delivery, together with the deep, baroque-sounding voice of Aas’ viola da gamba and the imaginative and precise percussive colors of Gismervik. In a way, O sets out to explore what a song is and could be.
Solberg composed the four untitled songs. The first three songs were recorded live in the studio. The opening one, «I», has an elusive yet light spirit of simultaneously flowing forward and standing still, based on a minimalist, repetitive rhythmical pattern, and suddenly Solberg began to recite the lyrics in a voice that mentions the color of the voice and the phrasing of another experimental vocalist, Ina Sagstuen. The melodic, somehow ritualist essence of «II» slowly blooms out of an atmospheric, reductive drone and eventually suggests a tender song that quotes Neil Young’s sentimental «Little Wing» (originally from «Hawks and Doves», Reprise, 1980). «III» is based on an untitled poem from «Etterlatte dikt» by Norwegian poet Tor Ulven (1953-1995), anticipating his coming death, and revolves around a beating heart-like rhythmic pattern and the unworldly, vibrating sound of the viola da gamba.
The fourth piece, the 22-minute of «III II I» on the second – yet unnamed – side of the cassette, is the reversed version of the audio on the first three songs. Somehow, this thematic circularity, in the duo name as well as in this analog format, fits perfectly O’s highly personal, impressive and creative vision. Songs are decomposed and recomposed, again and again, floating in lush, one long and highly suggestive dreamscape and in a natural flow, and in a manner that demands from us – the listeners – an immediate, unjudgemental but attentive kind of listening.
Helen Louise Solberg (g, v), Inga Margrete Aas (viola da gamba), Jan Martin Gismervik (dr)