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Kristin Bolstad specialises in site-specific projects, and among other things she aims “for the composition to be the room: be fully integrated with it and express its essential character; the room should manifest itself in the music. The compositions are dependent on the particular space for their authentic soundscape, which is generated through a unique interplay that gives an extra dimension and level of expression, and which can only be found there, in that setting.” The setting in this case is the remarkable Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum, in which the resonance means that sound takes 13 seconds to decay to silence. In such as space, atmosphere and the slow blending of sounds are the default approach to create the best effects, and the result is a set of beautifully performed vocal pieces that fully explore and exploit this environment.
Echoes & Shadows is the perfect introduction, its effect being all the more remarkable for being made with only two voices. The duration of the reverberation means that a pedal tone can create a bed of sound over which melodic lines and harmonies unfold, their own echoes creating a counterpoint of sonic shadows. Stilla for three voices sets up something more like undulating curtains of sound. There is clarity in the intervals used – sometimes close and even dissonant, elsewhere more open but always in logical progression and with a wonderful atmosphere. Intonation has to be spot on with this kind of thing, and these singers are perfect, in the most challenging of environments.
Using five voices, TRY works with slow-moving harmonic changes while using different vocal vowel sounds and colours to create a lake of sound. A subsequent section undulates with chords receding and advancing, and over which recurring melodic cells and other effects emerge. Mellom Skyene or ‘Between the Skies’ is more melodic, returning to the three-voice ensemble of Stilla. Glissandi between notes create another new effect in this acoustic, and the last minute or so is truly ghostly.
Tomba sonora adds four cellists to the vocal quintet, deepening and extending the sound but also shadowing and enhancing the voices. The slow-moving harmonies become more complex and the resolutions more ecstatic. Further along a four and then five-note scale develops in intensity and is dropped, and after some noodling in D minor the interval of a minor-second is examined minutely, the cellos having apparently been forgotten. This may be the title track, but even after a few hearings seems musically undercooked.
This release comes with an SACD disc and a Pure Audio Blu-ray disc which, with the correct speaker set-up, can deliver something called “Immersive Audio.” This “is a sonic sculpture that you can literally move around and relate to spatially; surrounded by music you can move about in the aural space and choose angles, vantage points and positions. Dolby Atmos and the Auro-3D on this Pure Audio Blu-ray delivers a new standard in immersion, fully enveloping the audience in a cocoon of life-like audio. Recorded in discrete 7.0.4 at DXD resolution.”
This is a remarkable and wonderful recording of some fascinating music, and you have to hear it to believe it. It might perhaps have been interesting to introduce other voice types for contrast, but as it stands this is a striking and impressive achievement. Texts where applicable are printed in the booklet, and there are session photos inside the mausoleum and further technical information on recording techniques.