Ro pairs electronic experimenter John Derek Bishop (Tortusa) with tenor saxophonist Inge Weatherhead Breistein. The album captures the duo performing in five churches along the western coast of their Norwegian homeland, with Bishop manipulating Breistein’s sax in real time using live sampling techniques.
The first thing that grabs you on the opening track, ‘Spurv’, is the rich tendrils of reverb that surround Breistein’s horn. This give his playing a stately and atmospheric quality, even when he launches into a run of more forceful notes instead of the more delicate passages elsewhere. Those sections are at once soothing but also inquisitive, as if he was seeking answers from the furthest corners of the room, his circular breathing technique seeming to gently lift you up out of your most contemplative thoughts.
Bishop’s processing similarly alternates between extremes. At its most subtle, his looping technique creates a chorus of Breisteins, a many-layered orchestra of saxophones, giving a sense of depth and perspective to his playing. Sometimes his contributions exist solely in the background as a microcosm of tiny sounds freighted with almost percussive textures, or as fleeting constructs of dissonant drones; elsewhere, as on the seven-minute title track, his involvement becomes increasingly prominent, especially in the second half, where he contrives to convert Breistein’s playing into a swooning, cinematic piece full of drama and tension. For the most part, at least in the first few pieces, Bishop occupies a terrain of considerable restraint and a generally respectful approach to his manipulations.
Perhaps the most surprising moments come with ‘Lag’ and ‘Stim’, where Bishop feels emboldened to add in a consistent rhythm alongside his partner’s sax. After a number of quiet, softly undulating pieces, those pieces have a crushing, disruptive edge, their rattling textures seeming to shake the pews and foundations out of their holy slumber. ‘Trekk’ begins with a passage of what could be echoing birdsong and clattering percussion, but might well be re-pitched and reassembled sections of Breistein building his horn and warming up. Whatever the source, as the piece progresses it evokes the feel of a slow riverboat cruise through some exotic jungle rather than trawling the cooler waters of Norway’s coastline, acting as a perfect example of this duo at their most inspiring.
Ro by John Derek Bishop and Inge Weatherhead Breistein was released by Punkt Editions / Jazzland on October 21 2022. Thanks to Jim.
Words: Mat Smith
(c) 2022 Further.