Friday, July 30, 2010

Lisa Dillan - Arousal CD/DVD (review)

Label: AIMsoundcity
Format: CD/DVD, Album
Country: Norway
Released: 2010

Lisa Dillan is a vocal improviser originating from the northern parts of Norway. She is a trained and educated jazz singer, but many years ago she moved further away from the jazz, and started exploring the possibilities that lies within improvising with the voice and creating various mouth sounds. When I first watched this tiny woman doing a live performance some years ago, it was a big(!) surprise that she could produce such massive sounds by her sheer voice. Combined with the subtle minimalistic moods and sounds, her playfulness and use of glass and fruit in her performance, it was a pleasant experience. She is an artist with many talents, she has a background from breakdance, and does performances and also teaches in improvising and telemark skiing.

Her second solo album comes a full five years since her debut album, Vocal Improvisations, so it’s been a long wait. Arousal continues in a way her explorations of her own sound universe, and was recorded mostly in the Emanuel Vigeland Museum, Tomba Emmanuelle, wich is one of Oslo’s best kept secrets. The museum website states: “The museum’s main attraction is a dark, barrel-vaulted room, completely covered with fresco paintings. (…) Entering the museum is a unique experience. The impression of the dimly lit frescoes with multitudes of naked figures is reinforced by the unusual and overwhelming acoustics of the room.(…) Vigeland erected the building in 1926, intended as a future museum for his sculptures and paintings, but changed his mind and decided that the museum should also serve as a mausoleum. All the windows were closed and his ashes were to rest in an urn above the entrance door. Influenced by Italian prototypes, he named his building Tomba Emmanuelle.”

In the Arousal booklet Lisa writes that “ the room endings are present, and therefore also new beginnings – the arousal of life itself.” Arousal is a physiological and psychological state of being awake or reactive to stimuli What is also present is the fact of marvellous acoustics with long reverb, which highlights her voice very well.

So, what does the CD sound like? It starts off with Lisa Dillan creating subtle ambience, almost sacred in wich the sound really comes into its own right. She continues over the tracks with wonderful harmonies, or a careful, subtle performance. She also reads her own lyrics in French, which she does a few more times over the CD. Her love or curiosity in the French language, its tone and rhythm is apparent, and although not being a French speaker, I have a notion she is justifying the language, or enhances the very special sounds of the French words. She continues being playful, minimalistic and noisy at times.

All tracks bar one are recorded in one take, and no overdubs or effects are added. Just Lisa Dillan interacting with the microphone and some sounds created by measuring cups, glasses, and a chair scratching the floor (track 3). I also like how she incorporates some folk inspired tunes or sounds. It keeps the modern improviser in connection with her roots, or culture in some way. The DVD enclosed enhances all the impressions created by playing the CD. Six short film or performances shows exactly how she creates some of her unique sounds – headstanding in a flower pot while making strange sounds, or performing with a dummy with an erotic undertone to name a few examples.

All the way through this magnificent release it is apparent that Lisa is doing her own thing and in her own style. She has not only over the years created her own style or soundscapes, she is also still energetic, playful, unafraid, and very much uncompromising. Coming from a jazz education, she is of course trained as an improviser, but she moves away from all of the strict rules jazz musicians sometimes performs by, and she gives a rat’s ass about what people think too, I guess. Who else would create a mouse call? And why not?

This review is also available in Freq Music Magazine

1 comment:

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