Christian Wallumrød: Pianokammer
Christian Wallumrød's (b. 1971) appearance on Hubro might be regarded as somewhat of a coup for the label, given the Norwegian artist's long-standing relationship with ECM. Since 1996, he's issued a number of acclaimed recordings on Manfred Eicher's imprint in different group formats, primarily The Christian Wallumrød Ensemble but also The Christian Wallumrød Trio and the quartet Dans les arbres. On many of those recordings, he's credited with piano, harmonium, and toy piano, but on his first solo album, Pianokammer (“Piano chamber”), he limits himself exclusively to grand piano.
Pianokammer is not, however, your typical piano album. Rather than present a standard set of straightforward melodic compositions, Wallumrød brings a rather more experimental mindset to the project, one that sees him exploring the instrument's potential for unconventional sound-generation. That he would do so doesn't come as a complete surprise, given the boundary-collapsing character of his ECM recordings, which liberally range across jazz, gospel, folk, and chamber music genres.
Concise at thirty-seven minutes, Pianokammer registers as a collection of explorative sketches that document the artist's desire to experiment with different recording techniques, overdub treatments, and resonance. “Fahrkunst” makes that immediately clear when it opens the album with seven understated minutes of eerie, dark ambient-styled atmospherics that almost wholly conceal any recognizable trace of the piano. Having been transformed into something resembling a modified organ, the piano then appears in its customary garb for “Hoksang,” a breezy reverie of folk song-like character, before “Second Fahrkunst” re-establishes the project's experimental tone with a series of pointillistic accents and ambient reverberations (one even hears evidence of Wallumrød strumming the piano's inner strings).Elsewhere, “Boyd 1970” and “Lassome” (in its first half) opt for laid-back, blues-based ruminations and rollicking R&B, respectively, while “School of Ecofisk” opts for bold experimentalism in ranging between echo-drenched treatments and another suggestive of ice crystals colliding. Admittedly the listener new to Wallumrød's world might be better to begin with one of the ensemble recordings than one as anomalous as Pianokammer. That it's something of an outlier in the Wallumrød canon doesn't, however, make it any less fascinating as a document of the artist's interests and inclinations.