RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

Karl Seglem: Ossicles

img  Tobias Fischer

With Ossicles, saxophonist and goat hornist Karl Seglem leads the listener on a musical journey that traverses Scandinavia, the Middle East and the African continent. With an ensemble that combines the sounds of goat and antelope horns with mBira (African thumb harp), fiddle and the more “traditional” jazz setup of saxophone, electric guitar, bass and drums, Seglem truly creates music without boundaries.

One might call Ossicles “world music” or “jazz,” but while there are certainly prevalent elements of both, it's clear from the outset that Seglem's heady compositions draw from a much wider spectrum. While the music nearly always contains an improvisational element, there is no verse-chorus alternation, no “head” followed by solo sections. Rather, the songs are built on strong through-composed forms that exploit an economy of melodic and harmonic material that recalls Western “Classical” minimalism and modern electronica as much as it does tribal repetitions or even Indian ragas. Consequently, much of Ossicles has a hypnotic, repetitive underpinning over which saxophone, fiddle and guitar allude to contemporary jazz and Norwegian and Celtic folk music, assimilating global musical language with abandon.

“The Last Norwegian Troll” is built around repetitive folk fiddle figures and bass drum colored by flourishes of saxophone. “Orken” is haunting, mournful contemporary jazz with a tinge of Middle Eastern flavor. In “Sognabad,” lightly distorted electric guitar, fiddle, and saxophone float abstractly over a slippery funk bassline, occasionally coagulating into unison figures that conjure images of North Africa. The title track, “Ossicles,” is perhaps the album's most intriguing composition. Buzzing, wavering animal-horn glissandi are punctuated by judiciously spaced strike of mallet percussion and a haunting start-stop drum figure. Electric guitar moans faintly through a field of reverb. The composition displays a brilliant use of space to convey a sense of darkness, and slowly-unfurling intrigue.

As Seglem's twenty-third album, Ossicles is clearly  the work of a seasoned musician unconcerned with musical, geographic, or temporal boundaries. Though the album was recorded almost entirely live, the production is as formidable a voice as any individual instrument, making the performances into an all-consuming sonic space, coloring the sounds of ancient instruments and modal scales with nuances of modern technology. The result is a collection of thoroughly engaging compositions that seemlessly meld composition with improvisation, modern jazz with ancient folk elements.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Karl Seglem
Homepage: Ozella Music

Related articles

Interview with Karl Seglem
One of the songs on ...
Johnny Butler: "Solo"
Saxatronics: A gauntlet thrown in ...
Jim Denley & Kim Myhr: "Systems Realignment"
Reminiscent of vinyl hiss, gurgling ...
Leimgruber/Lehn: "Lausanne"
Jazz in Hyperspace: There is ...
15 Questions to Li Tieqiao
He's done it: After months ...
Blowing the Horn
Living traditions: Tenor Saxophonist and ...

Partner sites