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.

.​.​.​for some reason that escapes us

Monday 18 November 2019

I got sent this a while back and it keeps popping up on my stereo and I to go look up what it is. It keeps reminding me of other things but is clearly not any one of them. Mostly sustained chords, slightly wheezy, like a faded memory of lost mediaeval music as played on a hurdy gurdy or reed organ. A more sedate version of the latest Pancrace release or a more sombre work by Viola Torros. Despite the more restricted palette, it gets weirder when I remember how it’s made. Vilhelm Bromander plays double bass while Fredrik Rasten plays guitar, both usually bowed in some fashion. Harmonics and overtones combine in strange ways to colour what would otherwise be thin harmonies, usually confined to the middle range. Both sing as well, just faintly, which adds a glassy hum of beating frequencies.

.​.​.​for some reason that escapes us presents two brief chorales, each followed by a longer work. It all seems carefully worked out, rather than a purely improvised experience. This comes off well, both in the restraint in their playing and the concision of each musical statement: the longest work is in three movements yet doesn’t crack twenty minutes. The scale and the pacing make you take on board each small detail as a compositional element, instead of simply immerse yourself in drone.