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Huntsville: louder in Guelph, quieter in Ottawa?

Ivar Grydeland at the Guelph Jazz Festival 2012 Sep 7  ©Brett Delmage, 2012

View photos of the group members

Huntsville, a free jazz group from Norway, appeared three times at the Guelph Jazz Festival this weekend before heading up to Ottawa for an IMOO show this Sunday evening.

So logically, OttawaJazzScene.ca, who heard two of the three concerts, should be able to give Ottawa audiences a preview of what they might expect to hear

Not completely.

We asked Huntsville guitarist Ivar Grydeland on Friday how similar their Guelph concerts would be to their appearance at IMOO in Ottawa on Sunday, and he explained that each would be influenced by whom they were playing with and would be substantially different. And that's exactly what happened.

Huntsville has been together for more than six years. Its music reshapes folksongs into more abstract patterns, including “drone Americana”, electro-acoustic noise and minimalist composition. The group has put out three albums.

Friday afternoon's concert was an improvisatory experience, entitled “Drones and Tones, Trance and Dance: Improvising Worlds of Sound”. These afternoon concerts, a regular feature at the Guelph festival, tend to be a challenge to the artists participating to try something new, and not play in their usual forms.

The three members of Huntsville – Grydeland, bassist Tonny Kluften, and percussionist Ingar Zach – matched with Canadian cellist Matt Brubeck, and with trombonist Werner Puntigam from Austria and percussionist Matchume Zango from Mozambique.

The match was one of the more successful I've heard at Guelph, with the six musicians easily building on each others' ideas. It was overall a nuanced wall of sound, not too loud, ebbing and flowing. Brubeck used putty to mute some of the strings on his cello to create a more percussive sound, Puntigam played conch shell (a very hollow sound) as well as breathy trombone, Zango used electronics wizardy as much as percussion. On the HuntsviLLe side, Zach produced some interesting sounds from metal bowls and bells, while Grydeland not only added banjo to the mkix, but actually bowed the banjo, for an odd haunting sound.

For a late-night Friday concert, Grydeland, Kluften, and Zach were joined by Canadians Nels Cline on guitar and Glenn Kotche on drums (better known as members of the rock band Wilco). They started out with about a minute of quiet folksong. Then a drone was added on top by Grydeland, who was playing with electronics and loops.

It ended up as 70 minutes of uninterrupted improvisation, which got steadily louder throughout. There was a great deal of sound modification and looping, and with some interesting chiming sounds on cowbell and metal bowls from Zach. Grydeland again bowed and plucked his banjo, but the main sound was the interaction of Grydeland and Cline's guitars. It was intense; it was high-energy; it was loud (although not painful). The audience appeared to enjoy it.

So what should Ottawa audiences expect? Grydeland says something very quiet – responding to the tight spaces in the Umi Cafe. He said that even their soundscape/improvisation Friday afternoon with three other guests was still at a higher volume than what they planned to do in the much smaller space in Ottawa, and definitely it would be quieter than Friday night.

    – Alayne McGregor

All images ©Brett Delmage, 2012
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