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«Ghost Caravan»

The second solo album of Norwegian master keyboardist Ståle Storløkken is improvised entirely on a church pipe organ, employing one organ’s pedals, pipes and sonic plumbing, with almost no editing at all. «Ghost Caravan» was recorded at the modernist Steinkjer Church (in Steinkjer municipality, north of Trondheim) by guitarist Stian Westerhus, on an organ that is partly a reconstruction based on a Wagner organ in Nidarosdomen built originally in 1741.

Storløkken manages to coax an incredible variety of sounds from this analog organ that can defy rational analysis, and makes it echo industrial machinery, buzzing electronics, or the tape-based experiments of musique concrete. The audio dynamics of «Ghost Caravan» span an enormous range, and capable of stretching from the quietest breathy whisper to a basso profundo squawk or scream, sometimes within seconds of each other.

At times, «Ghost Caravan» brings to mind Keith Jarrett’s experiments on the massive Karl Joseph Riepp «Trinity» Baroque pipe organ at the Benedictine Abbey in Ottobeuren («Hymns/Spheres», ECM, 1976). The Hubro label offers another reference: the celebrated tradition of improvising organists at the church of Sacré-Coeur in Paris, where organists like Rolande Falconelli, Naji Hakim and Daniel Roth have specialized in exploring the potential of the church’s great organ through spontaneous composition.

The ten improvised pieces suggest a loose suite that highlights the repetition of key elements and sequential titles, but with no obvious thematic line or a narrative thread. It begins with a series of quiet, abstract and ethereal pieces, and slowly flows and sketches a more recognizable, concrete and grounded mood. Mid-suite, the title piece already sounds like a draft for a dramatic song and then the church space becomes a cavernous cathedral of sounds that reaches its emotional and dramatic climax on «Third Sphere». The following «Drifting On Wasteland Ocean» returns to the abstract, enigmatic mood and the last piece «Fourth Sphere» concludes this fascinating journey with a beautiful, lyrical melody.

Eyal Hareuveni

Ståle Storløkken (church org)

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