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Eivind Aaarset’s solo recordings to date have been mainly trio affairs, mixing drum ‘n’ bass, chilly electronica, electric jazz and proggy rock stylings; a sort of acceptable face of fusion, Nordic style. As a guitarist his ability as a colourist and generator of shiny sci-fi textures has made him an accompanist of choice for Nils Petter Molvaer, Jon Hassell, Arild Andersen, Marilyn Mazur and most recently, David Sylvian.
Dream Logic marks Aarset’s debut as a leader for ECM and partners him up with long time collaborator, electronics whizz Jan Bang. Both worked with Hassell and Sylvian, either of whom would fit in rather well on some of the material here. For a start there’s a distinctly Hassell-esque tint to ‘The Whispering Forest’ and ‘The Beauty of Decay’. Both feature muted rolling percussion figures overlaid with hovering atmospherics and curls of faintly Hindustani melody. In fact the last track could be off Michael Brook’s overlooked Hybrid album (made with Eno back in the mid 80s). A couple of other pieces imagine some kind of mix of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’ or ‘World in Harmony’ and Eno’s Apollo; mournful guitar twang and high grade lush synthetics mixed into tasteful space-age MOR.
Then there’s the harder stuff. “Black Silence’ has (possibly unsurprisingly) a lot of silence in it; occasional deep booms are punctuated with restrained but up close acoustic guitar abuse. ‘Reactive’ sprinkles more beautiful free-ish acoustic playing (shades of Fred Frith or Hans Reichel here) on top of a quietly odd mashup of sources. Bang has a knack for placing seemingly disparate elements together (random kalimba thwacks, glassy drones, sub-bass thuds, snatches of found piano and orchestral bursts) in ways that can slightly disturb or seduce. The beautiful ‘Jukai (Sea of Trees)’ does both. It also features a gorgeous, slightly abrasive guitar solo, except it sounds less like a guitar than a muezzin call picked up on a shortwave radio. Aarset’s control of timbre and dynamics is masterful; tiny variations in pitch, attack and decay keep the ear tickled throughout and it’s often hard to tell him apart from Bang’s arsenal of sonics. He’s like a less scary Stian Westerhus.
The track sequencing is spot on. One piece appears in three variations which gives the whole a conceptual unity, and the slightly cloying sweetness of a couple of the pieces is offset by the more savoury/meatier items elsewhere. Listened to in one sitting with the lights very low, this is a quietly immersive and quietly surprising recording.