Recording in Oslo, multi-reedsman John Surman renews his acquaintance with recurring Norwegian partners Karin Krog
(vocals) and Terje Rypdal
(guitar), the line-up completed by pianist Vigleik Storaas. Whilst the bulk of this album investigates rarefied atmospheric heights, its chief moments of surprise arrive during several unexpectedly visceral episodes. These come courtesy of Rypdal's electrics, the opening "Traces" providing the best example. His scalding guitar sweeps up, then cuts away, turning into a reverberant background wash as it exposes Krog's meandering, dreamy voice. Then, the piano enters cautiously, followed by Surman's sonorous bass clarinet, this horn retained for the "Unwritten Letter" duo with Krog. "Gone To The Dogs" features capering soprano saxophone over Rypdal's strumming and Storaas's jabbing keys. "Double Tripper" has the baritone acting as foghorn, Terje's strings emitting phased groans, distorted and chipped. The album's remainder stretches back, relaxing on the floes, the instruments not quite sounding like themselves during "Ved Sorevatn", its chimes, pulses and ethereal wafts probably coming from Surman's uncredited synthesisers. Soprano and piano are left alone to produce the chandelier fragility of "The Illusion", with two numbers which adopt "conventional" song form saved until the end, Krog's text imposing a linear progression on "Watching Shadows" and "Wild Bird". --Martin Longley
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