Horn Doyenne Holsen Hones Minimalist Drones For Hubro Album Launch


Hilde-Marie-Holsen photoEspen-Koen-Webjrnsen2

The Norwegian brass-band tradition, which first evolved in that country with the onset of railway construction in the 19th century, is very much alive and kicking, particularly on the western side where Hilde Marie Holsen was raised. It was why she picked up a trumpet in the first place, and after finding classical music too restrictive she moved to jazz, and her favoured form of free-improv with acoustic and processed trumpet.

This is the basis for her second solo release, Lazuli (Hubro) and the record's launch night, an understated affair hosted at Kafé Hærverk in Oslo, a hangout of bare brick and lampshades lovingly reproduced from a 1960s German prototype by a lamp enthusiast (so the English sound engineer told me). The set opened with an extended single note, gentle but assured, hanging in the air like a horn sounded on an ancient longship. Her playing of the acoustic trumpet is minimal and even when she elaborates with melody such as on the track 'Lapis', it follows the modern Scandi template; pared down, muted.

It's in the processed trumpet noises that you feel her thrill, the invention of clicks, hums, fuzz, ripples and radio interference. These electronic manifestations actually give an impression of an analogue of the past, Holsen may be using a laptop and media controller, but she sounds like she's transmitting from a Cold War hideout surrounded by oscillators and code-breaking typewriters. Her nuances force the audience to tune into the slightest glimmer of change, an absorbed silence pervades.

At one point a droning bass follows her melody, a breath lagging behind the timing, like a foreboding shadow. The blue tone, so integral to the original Norwegian jazz wave, is broken on occasion; a flock of metallic noises, playful at first becomes menacing and Hitchcockian as the music intensifies. Shards of emotion break out, when Hilde's instrument rasps or squeals, balancing out the drones. There needs to be more height to the music, and more tension, but without doubt the audience was captivated and Holsen clearly knew how to leave her audience wanting more.

– Debra Richards
– Photo by Espen Koen Webjørnsen