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It’s all about Rhythm
Daniel NELSON (b.1965)
Miz Melody & the Resonant Rhythm Review (1998)
Tommi KÄRKKÄINEN (b.1969)
Paranoidia (2000) [3:40]
Reine JÖNSSON (b.1960)
Läge (1992) [10:00]
Ylva SKOG (b.1963)
Do you mind? (1999) [3:39]
Arne LÖTHMAN (b.1954)
Cirkel av rött ljus (1994) [10:49]
Peter LYNE (b.1946)
Septet (2002) [14:50]

Ingvar KARKOFF (b.1958)
Reggae Beats (1999) [3:47]

Örjan HÖGBERG (b.1953)
It’s all about rhythm (2001) [15:53]
Nordic Chamber Ensemble, Sundsvall
rec. 30 June, 1 July 2005, Tonhallen, Sundsvall
INTIM MUSIK IMCD 100 [75:23]


While potential purchasers of this disc should not be misled by its title into thinking it might be a jazz album, ‘It’s all about Rhythm’ does contain some swinging and approachable contemporary music. This is something which I’d previously seldom have associated with new music from Sweden.

As its title suggests, Daniel Nelson’s four movement Miz Melody & the Resonant Rhythm Review has plenty of popular charm. The composer admits to ‘a great weakness for popular dance music… of the 1950s and 1980s.’ The work is attractive but not entirely superficial, with some resonant harmonies and elegant counterpoint in the slower Nelson’s Riddle third movement, and the concluding movement; The Q-mix will provide new entertainment for those who enjoy names like Steve Martland or Michael Nyman – admittedly in a lighter or more frivolous mood, but well written nonetheless.

Tommi Kärkkäinen’s Paranoidia has a harder edged, more punky feel against Nelson’s gentler dances. It’s dramatic, insistent drum led rhythms create a driving intensity which would work well as film music, ‘The French Connection’ without Don Ellis’s spine-tingling trumpet. As a contrast, the slow poetic opening of Reine Jönsson’s Läge provides some relief. As the work progresses there is plenty of inner contrast, with some rhythmic development and expressive lines, but I found difficulty getting hold of what the whole thing was about. The piece seems neither fish nor flesh, and about four minutes past its sell-by timing. The composer’s note doesn’t help much in this, as he seems to have forgotten what it was all about in 1992 as well, other than to say that “it was all about keeping up”, and “In my world, Läge is a milestone.”

Do you mind? by Viva Skog brings us straight back into salsa dance land. I do admit that the piece is great fun, but often goes so far toward its origins that one wonders where the composer’s own voice is – I can hear the committee saying, ‘if I want to hear this, I go to a proper dance band …’ Circle of Red Light by Arne Löthman is a more lyrical affair, drawing on the nostalgic sensibilities of the romantic Swedish tradition in chamber music – whether consciously or not. The melodic lines do occasionally betray a little of the composer’s jazz background, but the overall impression is of serious-minded working out of ideas in a fairly classical fashion, the structure being an out-and-back arch form, but containing some intriguing linear development of the thematic material.

The marimba-tinted opening of Peter Lyne’s Septet leads you to expect something in the nature of a Steve Reich experience, but while there are some ostinato figures nothing could be further from the truth. The piece was a commission from the Nordic Ensemble, with the deliberate intention of making new music accessible to young people. Not quite the ‘Young Person’s Guide to …’, and certainly not that easy for children, the piece does however have a fairly direct appeal, and with cadenzas for marimba and piano there is a large amount of variety and spectacle.

More pop-orientated rhythmic fun in Ingvar Karkoff’s Reggae Beats, but not reggae as we know it, Jim. This piece is however nicely instrumented, and has an open clarity which is very enjoyable.

The final work, it’s all about rhythm, was written by Örjan Högberg, and ironically the opening movement has more of a reggae feel about it, with its off-the-beat violin figures and syncopated rhythms and interjections. From the cackling steam train called Wild Turkey, the second movement, Beautiful one, has a relaxed, lounge feel, taking a pleasant, singable theme for a walk. The Nymanesque third movement, Newton, is described by the composer as “somewhat in the crossover land between jazz, rock, fleshclassical – a helluva noise, in other words. Ends with either fainting or swooning.”

This CD has an enjoyably rough-edged quality to it. Some of the composers are self-taught, and as a result some of the works have a refreshingly unfinished feel to them. The playing of the Nordic Chamber Ensemble is good, although there is something betwixt and between in their positioning with this kind of repertoire – lacking the best of refinement in, say, the strings, if you view it as classical/modern, possibly not having quite enough raw impact if you want to see some of the work as contemporary/pop/jazz. The recording is fine, though takes a little getting used to. To start with it sounds a little like you’re listening to the ensemble in the orchestral pit of a miniature opera house, but I’m sure this is just due to the studio nature of the recording, possibly created at a mixing desk rather than as a concert hall registration, which at least means you do get plenty of detail. None of the works are horrendously weak, and many of them are great fun and a shot in the arm for those who like their contemporary music post-modern and ‘figurative’ rather than fiercely intellectual, difficult and ‘abstract’.

Dominy Clements 


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