The pipe organ has very few improvisers to count on to impose it as a versatile instrument in that field. Like Gary Verkade, Nils Henrik Asheim is primarily a composer and performer from the classical music sphere also exploring free-form playing. 16 Pieces for Organ is his first solo album. Most of the pieces are very short, from one to four minutes, with two longer tracks reaching seven. The album was recorded at the Oslo Cathedral. Asheim explores a wide range of standard and extended techniques, from quick pizzicato clusters reminiscent of pianists Borah Bergman and Fred Van Hove (also an occasional organist) to the more recent micro-sound approaches of experimental pianists like Sophie Agnel and Andrea Neumann. On a couple of tracks he doesn't play a single note, manipulating registers and knobs instead to produce sounds from the inner mechanism of the beast. The sounds of the clicking keys as fingers run on them and feet stomping the pedals also become part of the whole picture. Playing very quietly or between register settings, Asheim unleashes music many would mistake for electronics if it weren't for the wide acoustics of the cathedral. But this CD is not only about unusual sounds. The organist also delivers some strong "standard" improvisations, pairing virtuosity with a good sense of space. Each piece sounds written to an extent, since the settings are always precise and a small number of ideas neatly developed each time. 16 Pieces for Organ is a good occasion for improv-heads to rediscover the instrument.
AllMusic Review by François Couture