“Dans les arbres” is both band name and album title of this first release from a Norwegian/French collective that has been pooling energies since 2004, while also drawing on longer-established associations. The release marks the ECM debut of guitarist Ivar Grydeland and clarinettist Xavier Charles. Percussionist Ingar Zach has contributed to projects with Jon Balke (Magnetic North’s “Diverted Travels” and “Statements” by the Batagraf group), while Christian Wallumrød, of course, has been an ECM recording artist for 12 years already, with four albums as a leader for the label, most recently “The Zoo Is Far”, which was issued in 2007.
If the benevolent inspiration of John Cage was felt already on Wallumrød’s “A Year from Easter” (2003) whose titled referenced Cage’s “A Year from Monday”, there are musical-temperamental affinities also on “Dans les Arbres”. Cage had his prepared piano... and Ivar Grydeland has his prepared banjo, whose patient metallic pulse is one of the anchoring sounds here. Rather like Cage or Morton Feldman and other indeterminate music-makers, these improvisers also seem determined to ‘let sounds be sounds’, setting the timbres and textures free, or exploring them in detail, at times with an almost scientific detachment. Theirs is a music of small revelations rather than larger gestures, with arresting sound combinations constantly emerging. Occasionally, with sruti box and clarinet establishing thick drones, it sounds more like Eastern ritual music than Western improvised music. In other moments this strictly acoustic music sounds remarkably electronic.
Guitarist Ivar Grydeland (born 1976 in Trondheim) and percussionist Ingar Zach (born 1971 in Oslo) have worked together since 1998. Both are innovative and adaptive players, exponents of extended technique, musicians who’ve modified their instruments to meet the needs of the music. In 2000 they co-founded the record label SOFA providing a platform for improvised/intuitive music and, often, bringing improvisers from Norway together with players from around the globe. Collaborators have included Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Barry Guy, Philipp Wachsmann, Tony Oxley, Jim O’Rourke, Phil Minton, Susie Ibarra and dozens more. Several of these have worked also with the large ensemble No Spaghetti Edition (NSE), of which Zach and Grydeland are core members.
Clarinettist Xavier Charles (born in France 1963) and Christian Wallumrød (born 1971) have both performed and recorded with the NSE. Wallumrød first collaborated with the Zach/Grydeland duo in 2003: they had approached him after hearing the ECM release “Sofienberg Variations”, feeling there was common ground to be investigated. In 2004 what would become the Dans les arbres quartet convened for the first time. In 2006, all four musicians recorded together on NSE’s “Sketches of a Fusion” album a project that underlined, for all participants, the potential of further collaborative work. In July of that year Charles, Grydeland, Wallumrød and Zach recorded “Dans les arbres”, the album, at the Festiviteten gallery in Eidsvoll, Norway. The quartet is on the road to promote the disc from mid-May, 2008. Dates so far include Milan (May 14), Zürich (May 15), Wels, Austria (May 16), Baerum, Norway (May 23), Bergen, Norway (May 24), Ferrara, Italy (June 8) and Kongsberg, Norway (July 2). Further concerts are in preparation. Details soon at www.ecmrecords.com/tours