Erik Honoré: Unrest

After reading about Unrest, one might come to the release expecting a boldly experimental bricolage exercise, the kind of thing heavy in abstraction and light in melodic content. Yet despite having been constructed using a collage-like process, Erik Honoré's follow-up to 2014's Heliographs turns out to be a whole lot more musically accessible than anticipated. In fact, it wouldn't be overstating it to say that deprived of info regarding the production process involved, the listener might presume its songs were studio takes assembled using multi-tracking methods producers have favoured for decades.

Honoré is known for having founded with Jan Bang the Punkt Festival in 2005, an event that sees concerts remixed live and where improv and sampling merge. Unrest exemplifies a similar spirit in the way live samples of vocalists and instrumentalists (recorded at Punkt events in Kristiansand, Molde, and Prague) have been reshaped by Honoré at his home sound studio in Kampen, Oslo. Calling them collages isn't incorrect, necessarily, but in their final form the eight settings are often surprisingly song-like. Elements have been stitched together with care and precision, and consequently if there are seams they're hardly noticeable. As much as Honoré's the one in charge (he's credited with live sampling, programming, synthesizers, vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, and percussion on the release), he's not alone, and a good amount of the album's impact is attributable to the contributions of stellar Norwegian musicians such as vocalist Sidsel Endresen, guitarist Eivind Aarset, and trumpeter Arve Henriksen.

Don't think, however, that the recording lacks an experimental edge. Certain pieces, the meandering exploration “Surge” and cryptically creeping “Apparition” cases in point, emphasize mood and texture over song form and melody, though they're no less compelling for doing so (“Procession,” a live remix by Honoré of a Stian Westerhus concert at Punkt 2016, even suggests ties to electronica and techno). Still, it's the pieces with Endresen and Henriksen that linger on after the recording's done. Her soft vocal musings prove powerfully entrancing during the delicate reverie “Abandoned Home,” whereas “Apparition” sees her seemingly channeling some long-dead wraith. The predictably unsettled title track unfolds in an ambient wash of strings, guitars, and horns until a soloing Henriksen arises to immediately give the material shape, and his unmistakable trumpet cry so dominates the brief “Remain” it wouldn't sound out of place on one of his own albums. As memorable is “The Park,” a lovely album-closing meditation that augments Henriksen's phrases with poetic lines spoken by Honoré himself.

January 2018