One is the most abstract yet original release by Norwegian vocalist Sidsel Endresen. Known for her ECM releases (So I Write, 1990, and Exile, 1994) and her collaborations with fellow countrymen (keyboard player Bugge Wesseltoft, saxophonist Trygve Seim and percusionist Terje Isungset), Endresen is a music educator who has influenced many Norwegian vocalists in her country. Still, she's an innovative musician who keep searching for new avenues to express her art.
One is a series of ten short, unnamed, naked and intimate vocal improvisations which challenge the concept of vocal expression and explore odd ways of using it. Endresen took this route at many solo concerts and began documenting the experiences on her last recording, Merriwinkle (Jazzland, 2005), which also focused on abstract vocal sounds and phonemes, but she was accompanied there by keyboard player Christian Wallumrød. In a recent interview, Endresen said that the primary concern of One is "with different fields of energy, and especially elements of movement, pulse and propulsion."
In all these improvisations Endresen attempts to intuitively connect a stream of musical "cells" with some "alien" musical happening, which she can not contain with any familiar formula or musical structure, or a even an ordinary concept of time. She begins One with long breaths and quiet humming, but from "2" onward she moves to a series of propulsive, percussive short phonemes that indeed outline an "alien" language. "5" is surprising in its suggestive tenderness, "7" for its simple child-like playfulness. The rich and expressive sonics of "8" sound like a "raging Uzbek woman," to quote Endresen's words. On "9" the vocals hover around like a soft wind that turns into what may sound like a cry of yearning. The concluding track is a quick stream of percussive, short phonemes that attest to the true originality of this captivating musical journey.
One is certainly not an easy listening experience, but it's quite a rewarding and haunting one.