Hilde Marie Holsen: Ask

Ask is a provocative set of trumpet-based improvisations from Hilde Marie Holsen (b. 1989), who hails from Firda but resides in Oslo. Ask isn't, however, a collection of unadulterated horn solos; instead, Holsen explores the interaction between trumpet and live electronics on the thirty-six-minute release (available as a download and in a vinyl edition of 200 copies), with the electronic sounds the product of live trumpet processing. Co-produced, mixed, and mastered by Maja Ratkje, Ask, an oft-contemplative blend of short and long pieces, is Holsen's solo debut release.

The brief “korund” acts as an effective scene-setter when its industrial drone content includes nothing that could be remotely identified as a trumpet, while the later “muskovitt” finds the horn moaning like some dying animal. But it's “plagioklas” that is side A's centerpiece, both literally and figuratively, in the way it monitors Holsen's explorations over the course of eleven minutes. In this extended setting, the trumpet is transformed via electronics into spectral presences while also appearing in its natural form. Murmuring softly, the horn exudes a lonely quality, and in one striking sequence, the trumpet's lines are shadowed by high-pitched, synth-like whistles in a way that's unexpectedly moving. Ask rises to an even ghostlier level during the mournful “alkali” when Holsen's purring musings are heard against swells of supplicating, string-like expressions, while the closing title track collapses the distance altogether between the trumpet and electronic elements.

In its general approach, Holsen's album calls to mind Lester Bowie's double-album set All the Magic / The One and Only (issued in 1983 on ECM). Thirty years before Ask, the late Art Ensemble of Chicago trumpeter dedicated the second half of that release to solo trumpet experiments, some of which involved him playing into a well-tuned piano and seemingly into water, among other things. With her arsenal of sound possibilities bolstered by electronics, Holsen perpetuates the bold experimental tradition associated with Bowie's recording on her own adventurous outing.

July-August 2015