Guitar? Solos? Fredrik Rasten, Lauri Hyvärinen

Saturday 16 April 2022

I guess there is still a lot more that can be done with guitars; as with pianos in previous centuries, the synergy between artistic creativity and technological development is prodigious. It’s still a bit of a mystery what exact role technology plays in Fredrik Rasten’s solo album on Insub Svevning, where what sounds like an electric guitar is not. When previously heard in his collaboration with Vilhelm Bromander, Rasten’s guitar was mostly bowed to produce complex overtones. Here, everything is plucked and, while the overtones are simpler, they predominate. Svevning is two prolonged studies in arpeggiation, each successive note combining with the last to produce beating frequencies. There’s tremendous sustain in the harmonics, which suggest they have been electronically induced, yet Rasten also sings pitches against the guitar to extend and perturb the resonance of the strings. Despite the technical emphasis on psychoacoustic phenomena, a different effect takes over as content is subsumed by duration. With each piece running to forty minutes, the consistency becomes mesmerising for the listener while it becomes wearying for the player, leading to turns in the course of the music that suggest human need over theory.

Meanwhile, Intonema have released a solo album by Finnish guitarist Lauri Hyvärinen. Cut Contexts crops selections of the guitarist’s practice over the past two years of Covid retreat, presenting a set of five scenes of aural portraiture. Guitar playing is heard as a work in progress and as an activity in place, a given situation subject to transformation. While the guitar here might focus on technique, the emphasis is shifted by the locating presence of environmental sounds and by relocating device of setting each piece into a seven-minute window of time, framed by silence as needed. It creates a kind of cubist presentation, in which the often cosy domesticity of the subject matter is skewed by an oblique depiction in strictly formal terms. The method neatly excises the potential self-indulgence of the diary format that lurks beneath other pandemic documentaries. Why are there not seven pieces? Probably because that would be too many.