Jul 31 2012
Lars Danielsson – “Liberetto”
Bassist Lars Danielsson tightened things up a bit. Quite a bit, actually.
Previous Danielsson releases played things looser when it came to form. It’s not so much that the musicians colored outside the lines, it’s that they blurred the definition of the lines to the point where it was difficult to tell when they were outside versus in. For instance, 2006’s Melange Bleu was a set of ethereal tunes that seemed without beginning and end. And Danielsson’s 2009 release Tarantella had compositions not quite as heavy on the atmospherics, but the structure of the songs themselves seemed a secondary consideration.
This kind of approach to music can have all kinds of crazily attractive possibilities (in the instance of these Danielsson albums, a sense of dreams escaped from the Sandman, and hiding as songs), but the downside often is that the lack of form and structure makes for poorly retained memories of the music, and that the ethereal substance loses some of the visceral impact with the passing of time.
On Liberetto, the lines are thick, and all that color they hold within, it makes for songs bursting from the seams with personality.
Your album personnel: Lars Danielsson (bass, cello, Wurlitzer piano on one track), Tigran Hamasyan (piano, vocals on one track), John Parricelli (guitar), Arve Henriksen (trumpet), and Magnus Öström (drums, percussion).
It would be difficult not to begin this review with mention of the change in personnel from Danielsson’s last albums for this one, especially the addition of former E.S.T. drummer Magnus Ostrom. It seems more than a coincidence that the cohesive song structure and expert use of dramatic ebb and flow of tension that was such an essential part of the E.S.T. equation is not employed on this Danielsson album.
The most positive change in approach for this album is reflected in the melodies.
There are tunes like “Hymnen,” album opener “Yerevan”, and album closer “Blå Ängar,” which come closest to past Danielsson efforts, with Henriksen’s trumpet setting a lullaby tone, then standing aside for Danielsson to lead the way to dreamland. But even these stay on the reservation, never straying too far from the melody or the abiding reach for cohesion.
But many of the album’s tunes are typified by tracks like “Orange Market” and “Driven to Daylight” and title track “Liberetto”… tight melodies, folk music textures, and bursts of tension that bring the song to a boil.
“Svensk Lat” is a song split in two. It begins as Folk, with Danielsson’s cello slicing wide arcs of hazy sound while Tigran diffuses piano phrases like architecture upon the song’s facade. But then at the half-way mark, the song shifts dramatically into ferocity and drive more emblematic of Ostrom’s E.S.T. style of music. That the before and after pictures are so unlike presents no obstacle, because even here, the melodies of each half tie out even if their delivery is so dramatically different. The intriguing aspect about this tune is that the two primary characteristics of this album (folk and E.S.T.-catchy) are displayed, the former in the first half, the latter in the second, and yet even separated out like this, the song works, seamless in its transition between the two parts. And the starkness of their differences makes their compatibility as cohabitants of every other tune that much more impressive.
It’s a beautiful album, one that is finely textured, while also such an easily embraceable recording. At the time of this review (late July), I’ve got it slotted in the Top Ten of my Best of 2012 (thus far) list. It deserves to be there.
Released on the ACT Music label.
August 2, 2012 @ 6:48 am
Hi Dave, nice review and has again had me going back to listen with new ears and with the typo in the penultimate paragraph providing powerful imagery!
August 2, 2012 @ 8:14 am
Lol, yeah, that was an unfortunate typo (now corrected), though it’ll probably be days before I stop chuckling about it.
I really liked Liberetto, significantly more than past Danielsson efforts. Nothing wrong with his earlier recordings, but also nothing that struck me as incontrovertibly outstanding. But Liberetto had me hooked from the first note on the first listen, and it hasn’t let go of my ears since.
Thanks again for the heads-up on the typo. That was the kind of thing that could go viral (and which, in the light of things, could’ve led to all types of unfortunate puns).
August 2, 2012 @ 9:55 am
Where to start with the puns …
Generally I do like the album, but ‘Ahdes Theme’ which seems so out of place with its smooth ‘n cheesy cocktail jazz themes hinting at Mother And Child Reunion.
August 2, 2012 @ 11:10 pm
I didn’t mind that song so much. When I go back and listen to it on its own, its weaknesses do stand out a bit more glaringly. It reminds me of some of the quasi-schmaltz of Mathias Eick’s Skala. However, the album’s strengths are best when taken as a whole, so, for me, “Ahdes Theme” blends in okay. Plus, I don’t mind a song with a twee melody when it appears near the end of an album that evokes some strong emotions from me… there’s an almost cathartic effect, having a simple song with lite substance and a simple melody, near the end of the album and just before the wind-up of the big finale.
Also, it’s a pretty brief song… just a couple minutes. If Danielsson had tried extending it out into some 5-6 minute extended riff, that would’ve undoubtedly gotten under my skin.
Writing all this, I wonder how much Danielsson’t previous albums caused me to like Liberetto as much as I did. Because this album does have many qualities that I might not prefer in other, similar, recordings. But Danielsson really surprised me with this one. Well, it’s not a revolutionary concept that context affects how we each of us interact with creative pieces.