Håkon Stene – “Lush Laments for Lazy Mammal”


Hakon Stene - "Lush Laments for Lazy Mammal"On his new album Lush Laments for Lazy Mammal, percussionist Håkon Stene works the fields of minimalism, of meticulous compositions, expressed patiently, and emitting ambient sounds of an abstract nature.  It’s a bit of a change of course for Stene, whose previous work is more typified by atonality and dissonance, of experimental constructions built with an economy of sound.  Stene’s work with the Asamisimasa Ensemble, Nils Økland, and Jon Andreas Håtun illustrate his flexibility with unconventional dialects and modes of delivery.

Your album personnel:  Håkon Stene (acoustic guitar with ebow, bowed marimba, electric guitar, keyboards, piano, quartertone vibraphone, vibraphone) and guests:  Christian Wallumrød (piano), Heloisa Amaral (piano), Tanja Orning (cello), and Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørensen (cimbalom).

Stene contributes just one original composition to the affair.  Christian Wallumrod, who guests on this recording, also contributes a composition to the effort.  The others belong to fellow minimalists Gavin Bryars and Laurence Crane, whose aesthetic sensibilities are clearly birds of a wing for Stene.  Perhaps the best example of these composers’ similar flight patterns can be found in the Crane composition “Riis,” originally adopted by Crane’s Apartment House ensemble… Stene’s rendition mirrors the original with a series of long drones pulsing intermittently, of keyboard washes of harmonic warmth, walking a near identical path as the original.

There are several shorter pieces.  “Holt” and “See Our Lake I” consist of unhurried vibraphone notes marking the path of long keyboard drones, whereas “Sit” and “Prelude for HS” are merely deep whispers, sensed more than heard, the former vocalized by keyboards and the latter by vibes and cello.

“Hi Tremolo” brings an urgency to the recording, with its rising tides of cimbalom and piano shifting between a serenity that lulls the ear into a state of passivity before transforming into something far more intense and foreboding.

“Low Genths” features the piano and composition of Christian Wallumrod, a contemporary composer who sits on the very cusp of Jazz as he concocts his intoxicating displays of folk and classical.  “Low Genths” is a swirling current of piano, its tight circles interrupted here and there by sonic wedges of Stene’s vibes, giving a sense of snow drifts carried by stiff winds through a town… circular patterns that alter course as they collide with the standing structures of a city landscape, revealing an elegance both atypical and affecting.

The album closes with “Blue Blue Blue,” and like “Bobby J” before it, this song speaks to the album’s spaciousness, its patient expressionism, and its predisposition toward an economy of sound.

A mesmerizing album with an enchanting point of view.

Released on Hubro Music.

Music from the Oslo, Norway scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3