Ensemble neoN’s debut album, with works by Alvin Lucier and Oren Ambarchi among others, establishes the group as a considerable force on the experimental music scene for years to come.
Bringing with them a youthful experimentalism in their sonic adventures, Ensemble neoN have, throughout their short life span, established themselves as a progressive, original and uncompromising group on today’s contemporary music scene.
Consisting of twelve Oslo-based musicians with a passionate interest in contemporary music, Ensemble neoN strive to initiate, produce and perform music that reflects current trends in music and other art forms. Their debut album “neoN”, consisting of five mature pieces, show that the ensemble are to be taken seriously.
They bring a mature head to the table and playfully dice your expectations to reveal a work that is beyond the group’s tender years.
Although rooted in the experimentalism of contemporary Western art music, Ensemble neoN easily defy any conventional genre boundaries, drawing on musical impulses and inspirations ranging from improvisation, soundscapes and musical theater, to pop and electronica. I, along with others, see Ensemble neoN as inspirational contributors to the continually expanding borders of the art musical world. Ensemble neoN create and perform works that cross musical genres and art forms, demanding flexibility and creativity. The album consists of music by Alvin Lucier, Oren Ambarchi & James Rushford, in addition to works by the ensemble’s own composers Kristine Tjøgersen, Jan Martin Smørdal and Julian Skar.
As Jenny Hval writes in her liner notes, Kristine Tjøgersenś “Traveling Light 2” might take place inside a camera lens, continuously alternating its setting allowing shifting amounts of light enter the aperture. The flickering turns in to bigger fragments in Jan Martin Smørdal’s “My Favorite Thing 2”. Here a series of little themes or sounds overlap and build into a series of dynamic parts. The piece ends in impossible friction between two types of longing: the longing of isolated cherished memories, and the longing to transform them into a complete, larger body.
In Oren Ambarchis’s and James Rushfords’s “Monocots”, the pieces that make up the structure are larger, but airier, and each sequence is interrupted by a little pause before the music begins again. The music plays on, with a guitar wandering through a forest of half-drones.
As Alvin Luciers’s “Two Circles” starts playing, I am lifted up by the shifting frequencies of the drones, as if floating around in a room full of different overtones and resonances.
“Two Circles” ritual sacrifice creeps over into the last piece on the record, the restless but precise “Kunsten Å Tvile 2” by Julian Skar, an act of hopeful defiance and an unusually strong end point to a record that refuses to become the sum of its parts – it stays in complexity. “Kunsten Å Tvile 2” is a very busy track – there is hardly any room to think, let alone breathe.
The group and its members have already made an impact and gained recognition both as individual musicians and as a group at home in Norway – most notably winning a Norwegian Grammy Award for their collaborative album with Susanna Wallumrød, “The Forester” – and internationally, with The New York Times describing the group as “an impressive group” for their performance at the 2016 Mata Festival.
Formed in 2008 by Jan Martin Smørdal and Julian Skar, together with a group of musicians with a background at The Norwegian Academy of Music, Ensemble neoN aims to present music at the highest level possible, focusing on Norwegian and international works. Music at the highest level you say? They have succeeded in that!