Somnambule - Writing About Music

LJF: Rune Grammofon night
Susana & the Magical Orchestra, In The Country, Supersilent

Cargo, London, November 2006

It sometimes seems that the torrent of innovative releases coming out of Norway at the turn of the new millennium has slowed to a trickle, yet the country’s main labels including Jazzland, Smalltown Supersound (and its sibling Smalltown Superjazzz) are still busily recording new artists alongside their existing rosters. Likewise Rune Grammofon, which has released eight new albums this year alone. The artists responsible for two of those releases are playing tonight, joined by Supersilent, the much revered group responsible for the label’s debut release.

First on is Susanna And The Magical Orchestra. The winsome singer, sister of pianist Christian Wallumrod looks very much as if she’s stepped out of an Ingmar Bergman film. Her delivery, as per the two albums, seldom rises above a breathy murmur. Joined by Morten Qvenild, the one man Magical Orchestra, the duo make gentle, mournful music that’s an acquired taste that this writer has thus far failed to acquire. Qvenild returns to the stage for the next set as leader of In The Country. Drummer Pal Hausken and Qvenild are decked out in red and white cowboy shirts while bassist Roger Arntzen looks every inch the classical music school graduate. Together they play near headless jazz which is seemingly free to roam any fanciful which way it wants. They use this freedom to explore odd corners of would-be secret rooms to attractive effect.

Supersilent take the stage last. The group, now almost a decade old, delivers a veritable onslaught of freely improvised sound alongside melodic passages of striking beauty. They play tonight – as always - with striking sincerity. Beginning with familiar, scattered knuckle thumps that gradually cohere into falling regal tones against a backdrop of eastern trills. As the music moves into bassier territories, the effect on this member of the audience is akin to occupying a berth deep in the hold of an ocean liner while depth charges explode arrhythmically at close quarters. Supersilent continue to navigate virgin waters with an untrammelled intensity. We follow gratefully in their wake.

Colin Buttimer
Published by Jazzwise magazine