Christian Meaas Svendsen - Forms & Poses


Christian Meaas Svendsen - Forms & Poses

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BARCODE: CD 7090040250025, LP 7090040250032

RELEASE DATE: 1st February 2016

FORMAT: CD, LP, digital download, streaming

RECORDED: Vigelandsmausoleet/Rinzai Zen-senter, Oslo 2015, Christian Obermayer/Rune Børø

MIXED/MASTERED: Christian Obermayer

PRODUCED: Christian Meaas Svendsen

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«Forms & Poses» is Norwegian bass player Christian Meaas Svendsen’s second solo album, and features four compositions/improvisations which explores the physical connection between the human body and the double bass. Although recorded in two entirely different settings, it is clear that Svendsen’s mind-set on all these tracks are one and the same, and the release shines as a condensed representation of his creative diversity. The CD version comes with a 24-page long booklet with linear notes and pictures illustrating the physical relationship, all of which are to be found on the backside cover of the LP version.


1. Vita
2. aria prefix M-
3. Forms & Poses
4. Chidori

Christian Meaas Svendsen - bass, compositions/improvisations

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Creaig Dunton - Brainwashed

My first experience with Svendsen's work was his W/M debut split release with guitarist Christian Winther. Even though it was their first official release, both were well-established Norwegian artists who approached their respective instruments in ways that generated strange and unexpected sounds from them. Svendsen's newest work expands upon that, with four performances using only double bass, but played with a physicality and performance that blurs the lines between Svendsen himself and the instrument he plays. 

The centerpiece of Forms & Poses happens to be the first song on the album, "Vita." At just shy of 20 minutes, this single composition comprises nearly half of the album. Looking at the title’s two possible interpretation: one being Latin for "life" and the other shorthand for an artist's collected works and experience, both apply perfectly. Beginning with deep, clean string sounds, Svendsen builds from a simple, yet rhythmic basis. The repeating bass rhythm he plays is expanded upon, emphasizing both the individual notes and the hard, percussive playing. 

It is from this template of percussive bass (that sounds extremely similar to a full rhythm section) that he continues to work from. His rapid, repetitive playing builds tension, with variations on his approach creating sounds that resemble bass guitar, drums, and even synthesizers, though the only effects that seem to be here is a small amount of reverb. The piece hits a peak of intensity and then he begins to draw it back in. The performance never relents, but the sound becomes lighter and more melodic, transitioning to a subtle conclusion that makes for a perfect encapsulation of Svendsen's virtuoso playing and ear for strong compositions. 

The three shorter pieces that follow feature him going in other directions with his playing, further demonstrating his ability and proficiency. "Aria Prefix M-" is largely built upon plucked, muted bass strings. At first the volume is rather light and the overall feel spacious, but he slowly increases the volume and intensity to the dynamics. By the end he is bending notes left and right, but still within the confines of a clear compositional structure. 

"Forms & Poses" stands out distinctly with its overall more experimental and collage-sounding approach. The piece erratically stops and starts throughout, with bits of voice sneaking through. His playing is all over the place: the song was compiled from recordings of him playing with his hands, feet, body, and a more conventional bow, and so there is an intentionally jumpy feel to the piece. It finally closes in a wonderful rhythmic/melodic progression that is sadly too short. 

The concluding "Chidori" features Svendsen in a different approach: here his playing stays largely in the higher registers at first, with abrasive scrapes that almost mimic a violin. The varying pitches and playing do not sound too significantly removed from a modular synthesizer piece, oddly enough. Eventually he brings the pitch down to a more conventional bass range, resulting a wonderful combination of low end drone and rapid fire weirdness before concluding the piece on a fitting chaotic note. 

Forms & Poses may feature only a single instrument and a basic amount of processing and editing, but the most captivating moments are clearly the result of Svendsen's playing. The physicality he brings to the performance is where the album especially shines, and very few can manage to make a single instrument sound like such a diverse and varied ensemble. While I feel the slow burning, tension building moments of "Vita" are the definite standout, the remaining pieces as well are just as exceptional in showing the distinctly different styles in which he can play and perform, peerless in his composing and instrumental ability. 


Eyal Haruveni - The Free Jazz Collective

Forms & Poses is the second solo double bass album of the prolific Svendsen, after W/M (Va Fongool, 2013). He plays in the free and modern jazz outfits - Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit, Mopti, Ayumi Tanaka Trio and the duo Duplex (with sax player Harald Lassen) and heads the new musicians-collective label Nakama Records. 

As the title of this album suggests, it is focused on exploring the physical connection between the musician and the massive double bass, as well as the obligatory constant practice of a musician, as of any human being, who attempts to reach an open and profound awareness. For Svendsen this kind of practice is not only intellectual or physical one, but a true spiritual work, as in Zen Buddhism meditation or Yoga practice. "Practice every day, in every moment, always. Practice, practice, practice - and all is coming," he writes in his liner notes. 

The first, 20-minutes “Vita” was recorded at the vibrant Vigeland Mausoleum in Oslo, a favorite recording place for some of the most adventurous local musicians, due to the 15 to 20 second natural reverb (double bass player Michael Francis Duch recorded there Tomba Emmanuelle, Sofa Music, 2015, and guitarist Stian Westerhus recorded The Matriarch And The Wrong Kind Of Flowers, Rune Grammofon, 2012). Svendsen describes this composition-improvisation as a “life- to-death journey through the very depths and heights of his instrument”. It is a ceremonial piece, that sticks to a basic repetitive and resonant pulse that Svendsen keeps expanding, coloring and manipulating it with great reserve and total command. Then the sonic outcome, with the dark, deep tones that keep multiplying into more and more overtones, offers a new realization of the double bass range and its hypnotic power. 

The other three short pieces were recorded in the Rinzai Zen Center in Oslo. Each stresses a different aspect of Svendsen extended techniques. “Aria prefix M-” is a gentle piece, developed with an eccentric harmonic abstraction. The title piece is a full body exploration - hands, feet, the whole body, and obviously the bows - of the double bass, divided into short excerpts, all highlight the rich range of the instrument. The final piece, “Chidori” turns the double bass into a kind of Hardanger violin, with endless sympathetic strings, that mimics a noisy choir of talkative, hungry birds.