A double CD for the debut release by a young, relatively unknown composer? Sounds crazy, but Edition Wandelweiser Records has never been shy of promoting new talent (or of releasing double CDs). So we got 2016’s “solo/ensemble”, the first album from Swedish composer Johan Lindvall, and an effort astute and balanced enough to turn many ears. “giraffe” is its follow-up (just one disc this time), and follows in the path of the ‘solo’ half of his last effort by presenting fourteen solo vignettes, this time performed ably and with great discipline by Fredrik Rasten on acoustic guitar.
Most of the pieces on “giraffe” consist of plucked two-note chords, sometimes complemented by three-note chords and single-note runs. The chords are given plenty of space to breath, sitting somewhere between continuous lines and isolated events, but closer to the former. This creates an impression not so much of fragmentation as of a languid drifting along, at an unhurried but regular pace. Pleasant, simple harmonies enhance an overall effect of clarity, a sense of nothing being hidden, everything laid bare in diffuse revealing light. There is some variation in dynamics and intensity, though the range of such variation is naturally limited by the nature of the material. Five pieces include sung lines, which Rasten gamely delivers; his soft untrained voice fits in perfectly with the general atmosphere of unhurried calm.
It’s hard to point to anything particularly surprising, new, or spectacular about “giraffe” — which begs the question why I find it so enthralling. Perhaps it’s the contrast between the album’s plain, unshowy presence and the obnoxiously shouty and garish tendencies prevalent within the rest of Western culture. Perhaps my brain, which is always racing in a dozen different directions at a hundred miles an hour, needs a reminder to slow down and breathe from time to time. Or perhaps it’s just well-crafted, well-balanced, and well-performed. Whatever the reason, if you feel in need of a bit of calm and centredness, you could do a lot worse than check out “giraffe”.