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CD Feature/ Nils Henrik Asheim: "Broken Line Remixes"

img  Tobias
In the past, Nils Henrik Asheim has led the Church organ into a sonic clash with Lasse Marhaug’s fierce electronics, blurred the line between a composer and an improvisor and now allows a bunch of electronic libertines to dis- and reassemble “Broken Line”, a work for string quartet which took him eight years to complete, on a single night. The progressive part of the public has bestowed accolades and awards on him, but the more conservative crowd is baffled: Is nothing sacred anymore?

That, as you might have guessed, is not only the wrong question – it is also pointed at the wrong person. Remixing contemporary compositions and blending houndreds of years old instruments with state-of-the-art technology is hardly a revolutionary move in itself. The truth is much simpler: Nils Henrik Asheim grew up in several worlds at the same time and discovered that they offered a unique potential of mutually enriching each other. Or maybe it would be more correct to state that he just did what seemed natural to him – and left pondering whether it was politically, aesthetically or musically correct to others.

If one now reads the liner notes to “Broken Line remix”, it quickly becomes apparent that neither a nasty desire to confront, nor a complex concept are at the heart of the album. “On March 17, we arranged a release concert for ‘Broken Line’ at Tou Scene in Stavanger”, Asheim writes, “I had invited a few of my friends that work with electronic music to create new compositions over their preferred selections from the disc. The result turned out such nice music that we all wished to make it a new release.” Nice music – one could hardly find a more fundamental reason to release an album.

All the more so, because Asheim is neither exagerating nor playing down the quality of the music at hand here. Everyone involved in this project has taken his sound to a different level and extended his vocabulary while working on his contribution. Some have stayed close to the style of their solo oeuvre, others have opened secret doors and all have had the courage to stand by their decisions: “Broken Line remix” contains harsh chunks of noise, surgically dissected digital beats, impressionist sound art and veritable classical interpretations, not unlike what a new music ensemble might have come up with after an inspired session of trying out all options.

It has to be said that not all musicians seemed like obvious choices on paper, but this impression is quickly corrected after listening to their respective tracks. Sindre Bjerga, whose pieces are often characterised by an energetic ferocity, suddenly paints pictures of amiable warmth and HOH exchanges the clever electronica of his “Bestemor” release for a combination of concrete collages, snippeted samples and industrial physicality. Great respect also needs to go out to Jan-M. Iversen for a piece, which is nothing like his recent powerful live-drones, but rather sounds like Morton Feldman being invited to deejay at a minimal club in Berlin.

Thus, the record achieves what any project of this sort should in an ideal world: Telling us something new about both the artist to be remixed and about his remixers. In the case of Nils Henrik Asheim, one can learn that his perspective may be even broader than expected. That his music holds the potential of inspiring artists from the most diverse corners. That the work of a single day may be just as valuable as the hardships of eight years. And that all of these things are very, very sacred to him.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Nils Henrik Asheim
Homepage: Zang Records

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