Denmark - Full Moon 155 - 05/09/09
Mikkel Ploug, Sissel Vera Pettersen & Joachim Badenhorst
Equilibrium is a largely successful and highly unusual collaboration between guitarist Mikkel Ploug, vocalist Sissel Vera Pettersen and clarinettist Joachim Badenhorst. Following the short introductory piece 'Chorale I' comes 'November', one of the album's most beautiful tracks, which weaves glistening guitar arpeggios, soprano vocals and glowing clarinet lines into a delicate, haunting tapestry.
An hour of variations on 'November' would have suited me down to the ground, but instead this talented trio have taken a more adventurous path, occasionally stirring in saxophone and live electronics and allowing Pettersen's vocal acrobatics to veer from supersonic peals to whinnies and grunts. While all of these expressive gymnastics can prove beguiling, they can also detract from what are essentially very simple and affecting songs.
Experimentation is to be applauded, but the bare bones of this album's sound are so beautiful that it seems foolhardy to bend them to breaking point. In its finest moments (such as 'November', 'Fri' and 'Soft Spoken'), the space around the performances allows each sound to resonate beautifully, recalling some of Björk's more minimal songs on Vespertine or Medulla.
An album as odd and wondrous as this is well worth exploring, especially on headphones - but be prepared to weather some dissonant progressions and Pettersen's wayward delivery.
Copyright © 2009 Tim Clarke