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Thomas Stronen
Rune Grammofon

Not one to rest on his laurels, Norway's Thomas Stronen is the founder of the astral avant-jazz ensemble Food, a participant in the florid patchwork that is Humcrush, and the Maria Gannegaard Trio; he now dons the guise of solo artist with this effort, Pohlitz.

Traditional Gamelan music is an influence, but so too is the phase work of Steve Reich, not to mention the early electronic experiments of countryman Arne Nordheim. That being said, Stronen does not simply find a node within this system of speech, but uses it as a means of ascending to more personal, one might say contemporary, pursuits. Essentially a work of percussive elements, this small palette of colors is nevertheless looped, panned, and delayed into a baffling array of stark, improvised abstractions laced with silvery hues, and scudding, gritty drones.

The album's greatest pull stems from its attempts to fuse fragmented melodies and opaque drumming against backgrounds of effulgent synth washes. When the pulse of this finely spun work picks up, the ensuing mixture of melodic moments and strangled electronic buzzes can be quite sensual and enticing. Every now and again, however, the pace recedes, and while this is not a detriment in itself, the decision nevertheless has the effect of making compositions too light and too splintered, giving the listener a chance to become harshly aware of the nature of the atomic, isolated, altogether limited percussive movements of which this work wholly consists. When this happens, the motifs that repeat throughout are made most evident, and songs lapse into tedium.

Other moments, such as "Lavoisier" and "Dispatches," once again demonstrate a versatile touch, as Stronen winds lulling drones around light snare swats before burrowing below these elements and bringing out a radioactive slurry of live electronics. Much in this manner, the staccato chatter of the grainy perturbed textures of "Ingenious Pursuits" stand in fine contrast to the Eastern rhythms that imbue the piece with a strong bodily appeal. Over the album's playing time of just under 40 minutes, the narrow sound sources sometimes get the better of Stronen. But for all that, this first full-length solo effort houses numerous detailed, boldly configured compositions.

by Max Schaefer

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