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Matthew Ruddick

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Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Saturday, 02 April 2022 15:46

Kaleiido - Elements

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A little cryptic but also rather moving exploration of the spaces in between.

Norway and Sweden have for the last few years been my go-to geographies for the best in European jazz, but a metaphorical hop and a skip across the Øresund Bridge to Denmark throws up this curious album which isn’t easy to engage with, but does pay off if you stick with it.

Kaleiido comprises guitarist Anna Roemer and saxophonist Cecille Strange. Right from the off with Sky Part I, with its slowly transgressing picked chords and breathy sax pulses with no obvious groove or rhythm, there’s evidence that the duo are earnestly following their primary objective: creating music that moves in time and space.

Listening to this album, you feel like a weightless astronaut. With no rhythmic or melodic centre of gravity, you float effortlessly with the notes as they pass by and just see when they take you. There is something freeing in the lack of any obvious direction of travel.

A mixture of pure improvisation, jazz, electronica and ambient sound textures, this album is certainly a challenging listening experience. There are no obvious ’songs’ or tunes. Each track feels like it's fresh off the musical chopping block. And they seem to merge one into the other.

The musicians are content to play with the most minimal of utterances, relying on unadorned monophonic sounds and simple shifts rather than anything complex. Each note is left to hang and discharge its energy.

Tracks progress in small, barely noticeable steps; any increase in intensity or shift in tone happens so imperceptibly that, like staring out the window, you don’t notice the passage of time or the fact that a track is at end.

With just guitar, sax and limited percussion, each track feels similar. But as a listener, the interest comes from concentrating hard on those moments when one of the musicians comes up with an idea that marks a progression, a jumping off point for something new.

It is certainly relaxing music - and certainly best enjoyed by headphones.

Things get interesting when on Terra Part III (the track naming is simplistic) vocal harmonising from guest Hannah Schneider creates ethereal sounds - imagine a Nordic Enya - which drift in and out, offering something of an ASMR-like chill.

Take a listen to Terra Part III here:

Ember Part I is the most straightforwardly ‘jazzy’ tune, starting off with simple double bass pickings, tentative drums, breathy sax and darting, in-and-out guitar. But even here, it’s played in such a way as to make every step unsure, like walking on ice. The musicians tread gingerly, like they’re stalking an idea without ever catching it.

This album is an antidote to the hurly burly of modern life with its constant connectivity. With much of each track given over to decaying sounds and with very little to actively think about, you can just let it wash over you, and be.

Your speakers and headphones are safe with this one. No power: all simplicity.

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