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coverpic flag England / flag Norway - Full Moon 249 - 12/14/16

Laurence Crane + asamisimasa
Sound of Horse
Hubro / Grappa

Laurence Crane is an English composer, born in 1961, whose work seems to getting more attention these days. The always reliable label Another Timbre released a CD of his chamber music in 2014, and now Hubro follows with Sound of Horse, a collection of works performed by the Norwegian ensemble asamisimasa. (This is actually the second time Hubro releases music by Crane, Håkon Stene's Lush Laments for Lazy Mammal from 2014 featured the piece "Riis", which also gets a reprise here).

The three first compositions on the disc, "John White in Berlin", "Old Life Was Rubbish" and "Riis", shares a droney aesthetic. I've seen Crane compared to Morton Feldman, and when he's making music in this mode that's understandable. But where Feldman drops his chords like whisps of smoke in the air, the music here ripples slowly but steadily outwards like waves in a pond, with little drama, but with much time on its hands. It's written for small ensembles, but it still sounds full bodied and with a definite physical presence. There's also a sly sense of humour, in the score to "Riis" the composer notes that the organ should sound like Pink Floyd anno Wish You Were Here, and not like a church organ.

"Events", the fourth piece on the disc, makes a case for everyday beauty. The soprano Ditte Marie Bræin sings the birthdays of various famous people, foreign exchange rates and weather reports, all culled from the same 1997 edition of The Guardian. This could've end up as lifeless conceptual art, but there's so much stately grace and melodic lyricism on display it's impossible to remain unmoved.

"Sound of Horse", commisioned by asamisimasa, is a collection of miniatures playfully jumping between different moods and musical colours. At one point there's a guitar playing something sounding like a collapsing no wave riff, joyfully shattering the calmness of the surroundings.

In many ways Sound of Horse is the quintessentially Hubro album, even if this classical minimalism is a far cry from the post-jazz world the label usually deals in. It's a deeply serious album, but it's also approachable and friendly. This curated balance between the difficult and the inviting is one of the main reasons why I always greet a fresh album from the label with the greatest of expectations.

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