Haftor Medbøe and Konrad Wiszniewski, Poiesis, Subcontinental Records ***1/2

It is not surprising that this duo that the Norway born player Haftor Medbøe forms with Glasgow saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski is so visual in a soundtrack sense, given that guitarist Medbøe is a university professor who heads a screen and …

Published: 22 Jan 2023. Updated: 10 days.

It is not surprising that this duo that the Norway born player Haftor Medbøe forms with Glasgow saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski is so visual in a soundtrack sense, given that guitarist Medbøe is a university professor who heads a screen and performing arts department.

That soundtrack feeling is not necessarily a good thing given that ''programme music'' is nearly always not as good alone especially if sparser and airy in character without its multi-media imagistic ingredients that drive the sound divergently and stir the senses in multiple narrative dependent ways.

But when something, as here, is created not for the purpose of aurally decorating visual action but yet can in theory be harnessed for further uses that is a different thing entirely and usually better musically. The remarkable thing listening is how incredibly structured this July 2022 Pencaitland located duo free improvisation is. If the musicians hadn't confessed that it is free how can you guess given the infinite ways possible that impression lends itself to be faked? It says a lot for their powers of valid spontaneous composition.

There aren't any overdubs or edits and in terms of areas of comparison, Jonny Greenwood's soundtrack music, the unique sound of Medbøe's fellow Norwegian Terje Rypdal and further off at a decent pinch the spell of Brian Eno and his ambient innovations, all spring to mind.

Guitar lines are legato and glacial ostensibly with a customised chordal wash to the power of the afternote and the sax (both tenor and soprano play their part) element prefers extended time and slow contemplation to make its point. 'Celestial Veil' has a Barbara Thompson type mood to it and there is a dark sadness to the sound that gives it mood, mystery and - significantly - edge.

Song titles are fairly meaningless beyond the musicians' own coded reasons for these given this is all very abstract music. Medbøe dips into a stark almost oud-like domain on 'Fortune's Expensive Smile' while Wiszniewski - ex-Brass Jaw, wonderful on New Focus over a decade ago is superb on 'Towards Eternity' and reminiscent on this piece of the essential tonal and timbral domain of Jan Garbarek.

A very aesthetic vision much less melodic and more experimental than Medbøe's serene and beautiful The Space Between exemplified above but far more thought provoking as a tabula rasa thought experiment that turns out more than the sum of its limited raw ingredients. Out on 3 February. Konrad Wiszniewski and Haftor Medbøe, photo: haftormedboe.com

  • Haftor says [updated 5.50pm 23/01/23] regarding the ''coded reasons'' paragraph above: ''The titles were somewhat random selections of fragments from the poems of Emily Dickinson – it’s always hard to find titles for freely improvised music in the absence of setting out to achieve specific results.''

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We discovered a fine new venue going in Soho this week and choose the Chris Potter gospel influenced Got the Keys to the Kingdom as our album of the week anticipating its release soon. It's a formidable achievement and all the more special given that it was created live. Thanks for reading marlbank and your contributions this week via Ko-fi. Donate if you dig to keep the site going. Rick Simpson and Daniel Casimir at Ronnie's mid-week