Andreas Söderström – “4”

 

Andreas Soderstrom - "4"Andreas Söderström has lent his guitar to some wildly expressive projects from the Scandinavian scene.  Two in particular that have received strong reviews on this site are from Goran Kajfes Subtropic Arkestra’s The Reason Why Vol.1 and Fire! Orchestra’s Enter, both larger ensembles where Söderström’s various guitars are just part of the mix.

However, he’s quietly released a series of solo recordings under the moniker ASS (which stands for Andreas Söderström Solo), and they are far removed from the avant-garde headiness of his other collaborations.  His first two recordings, a 2006 self-titled debut and the 2008 release My Get Up and Go Just Got Up and Went are comprised primarily of Söderström finger-picking a steel-string guitar.  The music is heavily contemplative and possesses a dense moodiness that sees occasional beams of sunny glee break through at startling moments.  Of particular note is his intelligent take on the theme from the movie Escape From New York.  His 2010 release Salt Marsh saw Söderström’s compositions displaying more liveliness, with tracks more likely to take flight, aided by guest musicians on percussion and wind instruments.

Söderström‘s 2013 release 4 has him straying even further from the solo works of contemplative music.  Expanding the pool of guest musicians, (which, incidentally, also perform on both the Kajfes and Fire! Orchestra recordings, as well as the recent Angles 9 session), the music has more volatility than ever before.

Opening track “Villiers” is the uneasy murmur of guitar cloaked in a mask of serenity that is suddenly torn off by the wild fluttering of Mats Gustafsson on C-melody saxophone.  Almost a shriek at times, the song’s chaotic underpinning is exposed and that initial tense calm is revealed not as the echo of past sounds but the precursor of something new from Söderström.

This continues with “Varberg,” which has Söderström switching from guitar to flute, and with Andreas Werliin on drums and Alexander Zethson on grand piano, the trio create an ethereal presence that is less an actual song and more a conceptual expression.  “Potato Ship” also sees Söderström on flute, but this time offering up a focused tune, with flute, marimba and percussion all moving in unison, sketching out an agreed upon direction.  The contrast between the two tracks is a welcome ingredient.

With his thoughtful guitar patterns, “Butterfly Bend” harkens back to the sound of early Söderström recordings, though now there’s the added bonus of Tomas Hallonsten‘s haunting accompaniment on Haammond organ.  “Random Lunacy” also echoes an earlier period sound, with the calls of guitar answered by Mats Äleklint‘s trombone and tiny drops of vibraphone bouncing sparingly off the surface of the song.

The album ends with the eleven minute “Cedar Shakes,” a song that fully represents the development of Söderström‘s vision.  The contemplative guitar picking is tempered at one end by an ominous undercurrent of resonance from grand piano and then bolstered from the other end by the heavier introspection of organ.  Meanwhile, drums cut the difference between the two, and now it’s a matter of either perspective possessing a strong claim on the proceedings.

That kind of fuzziness contained within a concise encapsulation builds all kinds of intrigue to see where a musician goes next.  That it’s the bookend to an enjoyable present expression just makes it all the better.

Your album personnel:  Andreas Söderström (guitar, flute) and guests: Alexander Zethson (grand piano, vibraphone, marimba), Mats Gustafsson (C-melody soprano sax), Andreas Werliin (drums, percussion), Mats Äleklint (trombone), and Tomas Hallonsten (Hammond organ, MS-20 synth, vibraphone, marimba).

Released on Headspin Recordings.

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