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Lars Horntveth - Kaleidoscopic

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Artist: Lars Horntveth

Album: Kaleidoscopic

Label: Smalltown Supersound

Review date: Jan. 20, 2009

One of the most common (and commonly annoying) tendencies among both professional and amateur music journalists is their liberal use of the word “cinematic.” Taken to suggest a song’s visual power – as well as a writer’s limited vocabulary – “cinematic” is one of those words that crops up most often in the context of music employing the use of strings, run times over 10 minutes, or album titles containing the phrase “Original Score.”

That said, Jaga Jazzist and National Bank figurehead Lars Horntveth will have every reviewer sounding lazy in lieu of a listen to his sophomore album, Kaleidoscopic. The Norwegian multi-instrumentalist has dabbled in film scores before on three occasions, but this idea was different: Instead of being commissioned specifically for a movie, Horntveth began with the idea of an open score, an initial idea to be toyed with and manipulated as time progressed and his own personal moods changed. In collaboration with producer Jorgen Sir Dupermann Traen and 41 members of the Latvian National Orchestra, Horntveth delivers an ambitious break from the post-rock and free-jazz pursuits of his main band.

Kaleidoscopic is one track that clocks in just shy of 37 minutes. It features 34 string players, three percussionists, clarinet flute, bass trombone, piano and a harp. The liner notes are penned by John Szwed and give a short overview of the relationship between film and music. Horntveth makes clear the premise, then uses multiple takes of his time with the orchestra over a two-day period in Riga to sculpt the sound he was after.

Inspiration for the music draws from sources such as Terry Riley, Joanna Newsom, Eleni Karaindrou, and Stereolab. Piano and strings set the course of the first recognizable melody, but after nine minutes the sound shifts to feature the bass trombone and three percussionists in a climax John Williams would be proud of. The ensuing dynamic shift, which leaves only the quiet pluck of a harp, is one way Horntveth keeps the listener’s attention throughout Kaleidoscopic; another is a quick skim of Jaga Jazzist territory near the midway point, a jazzy groove that lasts some eight minutes. Strings and Horntveth’s own piano playing wrap up the piece over the final ten minutes.

In recent interviews for this album, Horntveth has said that his goal was to create a balance between intensity and calm. As a logical progression from 2004’s Pooka, Kaleidoscopic achieves that goal by never languishing in any one section for too long. It seems appropriate that the only way to enjoy Kaleidoscopic is to play it from start to finish. After all, it’s cinematic.

By Patrick Masterson

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