Thomas Dahl & Court – Quilter (2019)

Thomas Dahl & Court - Quilter (2019)
Artist: Thomas Dahl & Court
Album: Quilter
Label: Losen Records
Year Of Release: 2019
Quality: FLAC (tracks)

Tracklist:
01. Hermit (5:30)
02. A Wall (7:37)
03. Ballestre (7:37)
04. So and So (3:58)
05. Dice (5:15)
06. Rad 3310 (8:33)
07. Quilter (8:52)
08. Procession (5:07)

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Personnel:
Thomas T Dahl – guitar
Harmen Fraanje – piano
Magne Thormodsæter – bass
Håkon Mjåset Johansen – drums

Lines. The bass begins to walk before piano-figures, percussion, and a singing guitar enter. The different instruments seem to follow their own logic, expanding tones and figures more than themes or melodies. At the same time, the musicians appear to insist that tones and figures are the building blocks of lines and melodies, while simultaneously displaying how the single musician’s lines by necessity exist in relation to the other musicians’ playing. This is, of course, not revolutionary in any way. This is how musicians interact. At the same time, Thomas Dahl and the musicians in Court use this basic level of musical interaction to interesting results. On “Hermit,” the opening track, these interactions are added one upon the other, and the music we hear emerges out of interactions more than appearing planned ahead of time. When a musician decides to lay off, other sonorities develop, clearest towards the end of the track where the musicians in addition also work with individual times, so that the music also expands temporality – resulting in yet another layer of musical complexity.

Layers. Layers are more important for this music than complexity. A musician or a musicologist might choose to focus on complexities because it supposedly gives more street-cred than other musical parameters, and admittedly, any multilayered music has the potential for being read as presenting an increasing level of complexity. Focusing upon complexity or musical density might also be a way of describing musical form. While all these dimensions might be true, the music on this album is not first and foremost heard as complex. The layers of music from the different musicians feel more like a conversation than individual lines. As such these compositions seemingly ask questions about the relations between each singular musician and the collective of the band. While the album is presented as an album by Thomas Dahl & Court, and while the songs are composed by Dahl, the result is chamber music without any egos standing in the way. Dahl’s guitar and Harmen Fraanje’s piano are the primary melodic contributors on a first hearing, but Magne Thormodsæter’s bass and Håkon Mjåset Johansen’s drums also contribute melody, not least when melodies are primarily, as I wrote above, a result of expanded tones and figures.

Listening. If one chooses to listen to the different layers as interlocking melodies a new perspective arises. The different musicians move in and out of focus, not primarily by what they are playing, but by how we as listeners decide to listen. At one point on “A Wall” I focused upon Thormodsæter as the primary melodist, and it was as if the music became a picture turning slightly. But without me choosing, Mjåset Johansen’s cymbals came into focus, and the music felt like turning slightly again and a new picture arose. It is not that the music feels “visual” – calling the sounds a picture is a metaphor – it is rather that the compositions give themselves to being listened to with different entry-points. This is another dimension of the layered compositions coming to the fore; the fact that this album can be listened to several times without sounding the same – the chamber playing contributes continuous changed perspectives where the ongoing conversations between the musicians are heard as if for the first time. Another layer is added to the conversation. We are not just eavesdropping on musicians playing together, as listeners we are forming what we are hearing in an interaction between the musicians and us. Given the almost understated musicality of the band, the fact that none of them are insisting on being the focus of our attention, the album becomes itself again and again.

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