Auton: Any Where Out of the World
Structures Sonores

The refined interplay Swedish musicians Rikard Heberling, Douglas Holmquist, and Petter Samuelsson execute on their Auton album Any Where Out of the World elevates it above much of whatever else passes for small-group instrumental music-making these days. Talk about gestation: recording of the album was actually started in 2004 in Copenhagen but not until the spring of 2008 was the full-length completed in Malmö (some of the album's material was released as a fifty-copy CD-R release on the now-defunct Malmö, Sweden-based Produkt label in 2006). Whether by accident or design, the album's material invokes the music of diverse figures such as Nino Rota (“El Dorado”), Steve Reich (the staccato mallet patterns at the start of “Sagittarius A”), and Pat Metheny; both “Aerikanne,” with its elegant intertwine of dancing piano and vibes melodies augmented by fluid electric guitar lines, and “Orgelkorall,” with its similarly buoyant themes, could easily have come from the pen of the justly-celebrated jazz guitarist. Sprinkled with the instrumental colour of trumpet, electric piano, vibes, glockenspiel, and electric guitar, the album also includes mournful ballads (the piano-based “Lament I” and wistful Rhodes-and-guitar outro “Lament II”), a heavy, improv-styled setting of layered trumpets and corroded electric guitar stabs (“Krater”), and even a couple of songs featuring wordless vocals (Helena Ahlblom adds her pretty voice to the trio's on “36,201 ft”).

Listening to Auton's finely-crafted, largely acoustic material, it's hard to believe that Heberling and Holmquist toiled in a synthesizer-based pop outfit named Dr. Higgins before Auton came into being. Regardless, the new release is accompanied by a sheet of liner notes (in Swedish) by Petter Herbertsson who reportedly designated the earlier CD-R one of the top three records ever recorded in Sweden. Though I don't know if I'd go quite that far, I would at the very least argue that Any Where Out of the World is high-quality material that definitely deserves to be heard by a whole lot more than fifty people.

December 2008