Arve Henriksen

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Sakuteiki Review

by François Couture

Arve Henriksen's first solo CD takes its title from an 11th century Japanese treatise on garden planning. Knowing the care these people put in the conception of their gardens to achieve a perfect level of beauty and balance, one expects something more zen than usual from the Supersilent trumpeter. Well, there are no disappointments in sight. Sakuteiki turns out to be the delicate origami flower its title promised. Recorded in various churches selected for their acoustical properties, the pieces all favor sparse arrangements, acoustic sounds, and an esthetic of open space. The trumpet wails at the stone walls, the slow-decay echo filling the room. At other times Henriksen concentrates on valve or breathing noises. What is more surprising is the very distinctive shakuhachi inflections he produces with his instrument. On a few pieces, particularly during the first half of the album, he also performs on harmonium and church organ. Not a trained keyboardist, his crude tracks provide some atmosphere, but they don't match up to the solo trumpet pieces. Compared to Supersilent's busy group improvisations, this music is a haven. Put in parallel to Axel Dörner and Franz Hautzinger's explorations of the trumpet's microsonic possibilities, it feels warm, compelling, even soothing. On first listen, Sakuteiki could be dismissed as being too easy -- a lazy listener could even interpret it as a form of jazz/new age fusion. But a closer inspection reveals how much each musical gesture is the result of a minute organization to create easy-flowing pieces that bring together avant-garde research and centuries-old wisdom. Recommended.

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