Espen Jørgensen: On the Great Alkali Plains

The pristine pluck-and-strum of Norwegian artist Espen Jørgensen's acoustic steelstring and 11-string harp guitars is a thing of beauty and a marvel to behold. The one-time Green Cortinas member is certainly a virtuoso but On the Great Alkali Plains' focus is compositional first and foremost. Even so, there's ample opportunity to appreciate the quality of his playing, given that it's an entirely solo guitar affair but for two exceptions: Håkon Mørch Stene contributes subtle orchestral percussion enhancements to Jørgensen's ghostly shudder on “Barren,” and percussionist Terje Isungset, renowned for crafting instruments from Norwegian nature, adds an unusual array of natural percussions—blocks, rustlings, twanging Jew's Harp sounds—to the folk setting “The Woods”; Jørgensen himself adds an echo machine to “Himmelsangen” for extra ambiance. The album's eight, typically folk-styled pieces balance quieter passages of elegance and delicacy with aggressive episodes featuring rapid, multi-layered picking, and an occasional creak and inhalation lends the set (recorded straight to analogue tape at the Rainbow studio in Oslo) an intimate character. On the Great Alkali Plains provides a wonderful showcase for Jørgensen's artistry.

April 2007