Arve Henriksen: Places of Worship
Rune Grammofon

Titles can't be ignored. And so it is that Arve Henriksen's follow-up to his last solo release, Cartography (ECM, 2008), carries with it notions of reverence, supplication, devotion, and humility—even if by way of architectural association. Certainly the ten concise mood pieces featured on Places of Worship are plaintive and heartfelt, though that won't come as a major surprise to listeners already acquainted with the Norwegian musician's distinctive trumpet sound. The album reunites Henriksen with Rune Grammofon, the home for three previous solo releases—2001's Sakuteiki, 2004's Chiaroscuro, and 2007's Strjon—as well as those he's issued as part of the bold improv outfit Supersilent.

There is also, it should be added, a direct connection between the album title and its content, with Henriksen referencing specific holy locales—cathedrals, cemeteries, and the like—in the ten settings. One might hear the music as his way of conjuring the spirits who, in physical form, once inhabited the spaces. The samples Jan Bang and Erik Honoré (Henriksen's key collaborators on the album and co-artistic directors of Punkt, the live remix festival now celebrating its ninth year in Kristiansand) contribute to the settings strengthen that connection by making it sound at times as if Henriksen's actually playing within a given locale.

A male singing voice and orchestral sounds lend“Adhan” a soothing warmth but it's Henriksen's trumpet that ultimately becomes the most memorable element, especially when his soft, flute-like smears are immediately identifiable as his and his alone. It doesn't surprise, then, that the album's most powerful pieces are the ones where his playing resounds within sparse arrangements characterized by restraint. While synths and samples do appear alongside his trumpet in “Le Cimetière Marin,” for example, the accompanying sounds constitute an almost subliminal presence designed to support his lyrical musings. One shouldn't overlook the impact of his falsetto singing either, which on “Lament” proves to be just as affecting and vulnerable a sound (at album's end, Honoré takes an equally memorable vocal turn on “Shelter from the Storm”).

Jon Hassel and Miles Davis are two obvious touchstones for the album: Hassel's presence can be glimpsed in the Fourth World swing of “Saraswati,” whereas Davis's is evoked more by the similarities in mood that emerge in tracks such as “The Sacristan” and “Bayon” between Sketches of Spain and Places of Worship. The album's a rich feast for the ears, with Bang and Honoré contributing samples, programming, synth bass, synthesizers, and singing to the set, and others making key contributions, too—“Alhambra” would be far less evocative minus Eivind Aarset's guitar playing, for example. All else aside, however, what one takes away from the album most of all is the inimitable purr of Henriksen's trumpet playing.

November 2013