The Wire

Percussionist Ingar Zach and guitarist Ivar Grydeland have a special understanding, as two earlier SOFA recordings of their freely improvised duets have shown. A close rapport of that kind can be exhilarating but it's undoubtedly healthy to disrupt it occasionally. That's effectively what was happening when they invited composer Eivind Buene to collaborate with them. Buene recognised «an opportunity to combine and juxtapose the different energies of improvisation and composition», and Asymmetrical Music, in nine movements, is the outcome. Recorded live in Oslo in 2004 the piece has Zach and Grydeland as soloists fronting a mixed ensemble of ten local musicians, conducted by Lene Grenager. The duo meet the challenge of this situation spectacularly well and it's a consistently absorbing release.
Buene selected his instrumentation imaginatively - a quartet of strings, a pair of reeds, electric guitar and piano, bass marimba and bagpipes. They are rarely heard as an ensemble but in shifting alignments, provoking the improvisors or meeting them on their own ground. Buene avoids any suggestion that this is a clash between predetermined orderliness and inspired spontaneity. Instead there are mobile structures that test the flexibility of the improvisors' customarily fragmented language, confronting them with contrasts, tensions and forms of coherence that require other kinds of response. In the course of the eighth of nine sections, a brief thunderous ensemble passage melts into a bizarre encounter between the string quartet, Grydeland's pulsating guitar harmonics, flurries of marimba and almost feline bagpipe wails. Fabulous.

Julian Cowley