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Fjall — From the Rough Hill
(Discus Music 164CD, 2023, CD / DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2023-11-30

From the Rough Hill Cover art

Fjall is a quartet of British improvisers who tend to eschew the noisy and chaotic free-improv jazz style, instead opting for a more subtle neo-classical improvisational idiom that is at once gentle and dreamy, at times even approaching a more minimalist, reflective musical palette. The feeling a listener can expect is contemplative and warm, very much atmospheric and layered, where hints of world music abound as well; the image on the cover of a quiet stream cascading toward the camera is a perfect allegory, with tree branches and shadows hanging over the background. From the Rough Hill is a twelve-part instant composition, which (if one selects the full download instead of the CD) can also be experienced with all twelve parts fused together seamlessly. If you have one of those old CD players like mine that inserts a fraction of a second of space at each track transition, that’s definitely the way you’ll want to go. The four players are Martin Archer on concert flute, hulusi flute, saxes, clarinet, bass clarinet, harmonicas, recorders, melodica, percussion, and electronics; Jan Todd plays baritone psaltery, electric harp, cross string harp, tagelharpa, waterphone, cello, hulusi flute, looping, electronics, and field recordings (both of whom play in Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere, the former in Combat Astronomy and numerous other group and solo endeavors, the latter from Frostlake); Fran Comyn plays frame drums, gongs, bells, bowls, cymbals, hand percussion, and field recordings; and lastly Richard Jackson plays drums and percussion. They certainly play enough of everything that they can switch instruments numerous times over the 55 minutes of the piece to bring a nearly endless variety of sounds as it proceeds gently but steadily toward its conclusion. The involvement of two full-time percussionists makes for a subtle complexity that is often reminiscent of the world sounds of Japan, Indonesia, Australia, Africa, and elsewhere. There are no vocals, this is an entirely instrumental endeavor, but at times one can faintly hear spoken voices buried deep in the mix, from the field recordings, which include bird and animal sounds as well. Fjall really sounds like nobody else, but at times some listeners might be reminded just a little of the Third Ear Band.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Martin Archer, Fjall

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