BY MICHAEL TOLAND
A collaboration between Norwegian Hardanger fiddle master Nils Økland and guitarist Per Steinar Lie and drummer Ørjan Haaland of the instrumental band The Low Frequency in Stereo, Lumen Drones creates atmospheric soundscapes that hit the midpoint between composition and collective improvisation. The Hardanger fiddle, with its sympathetic strings augmenting the ones being bowed, is ideally suited to the drones displayed in the band’s name, and Økland understands exactly how to exploit them. With a resumé that includes jazz, new wave and classical experience, as well as the traditional Norwegian folk with which the instrument is associated, the fiddler is also the ideal bridge builder to the rock world from which Lie and Haaland hail, and the LFiSers respond in kind.
All of which is to say the trio conjures up psychedelic instrumentals that weave subtle melody through the haze of drones. Lie sets up the framework with repetitious but melodic chords and arpeggios, under which Haaland puts a steady but unobtrusive rhythm pulse. Økland saws away over the top, but favors long, flowing lines that evoke a mood over virtuoso pyrotechnics. The trio is at its best during longer pieces – “Ira Furore,” “Echo Plexus” and the jazzy “Svartaskjær” unfold slowly and work aggression and changing dynamics into the arrangements to excellent effect. But the band is equally adept at quieter, more meditative states as well – the wispy “Lux” and “Keelwater” float more gently, though not at the expense of either rhythm or tunefulness.
Lumen Drones sounds like the work of a group of musicians just as dedicated to craft and intent as to exploring the noises they can make together, and that makes this LP a beautiful thing.
DOWNLOAD: “Ira Furore,” “Keelwater,” “Echo Plexus”