While those around her were busy exploring the nexus of technology and conventional instrumentation at the 2006 Punkt Festival in Kristiansand, Norway, Sidsel Endresen was demonstrating just how much could be done with one unaltered human voice. One documents the advances she's made in stretching the potential of voice and articulation. It's a record that eschews, for the most part, conventions like melody, pulse and lyric. Still, despite its improvised nature, this brief 32-minute set is not without form or clear intention.
Endresen has been on the radar since her early days with ECM and albums including '94's Exile. But in recent years she's been working closely Nu Jazzers including keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft, trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær and multi-instrumentalist/producer Helge Sten (who mixed, edited and mastered One).
Undertow (Jazzland, 2000) was a compelling but still song-based album that demonstrated her appealing and wide-ranged voice in a more conventional yet distinctly personal setting. Here she challenges the listener with a series of ten miniatures that, at times, defy the certain knowledge that all sounds made are with a single voice, recorded dryly and with no additional processing.
Despite its most challenging nature, One not only has form within its individual tracks, but an overriding arc as well. On "1" Endresen emulates the sound of wind with embedded changes in pitch, while "2" is a mix of stuttered, staccato percussive clicks and ticks. "3" explores aborted and incomprehensible words interspersed with odd, scratching sounds, while "4" has a complex rhythm and the beginnings of restricted pitch.
Elsewhere Endresen naturally creates a voice in reverse, the buzzing of bees, percolating bubbles and rapid-fire guttural noises that would seem impossible were it not for the evidence before one's ears. Endresen covers a broad dynamic range, building from near silence to its greatest peak on "8," the closest to verbal articulation on the record.
One may not be a disc that sees regular rotation on many people's players. Still, it's a provocative exploration of the limitless potential of the human voice, and a unique project that could only come from the unencumbered voice of Sidsel Endresen.