Kim Myhr: You | me

Though there's no shortage of unusual recordings in Hubro's discography, it would be fair to say, I think, that Norwegian guitarist Kim Myhr's You | me is particularly unusual: how many other Hubro releases, after all, feature two extended opuses perfectly tailored for a vinyl presentation (that they are is reinforced by their simple “A” and “B” titles). The press text for the release describes its contents as ‘oceanic,' specifically “a tidal flow of immersive sound saturated with the flotsam and jetsam of incidental detail”; in Myhr's own words, he “wanted the music to be saturated with details, up to the point where you feel you're almost swimming in them, while at the same time keeping a simplicity in the form, so that the music could be experienced as one continuous state.” The image that forms in my mind as I listen to the material, one in the final analysis not all that different from his, is of a dizzying, high-energy forcefield where atoms and particles swirl in constant motion.

The end-result of a five months-long studio process, You | me presents long-form performances whose parts constellate around repetitive rhythmic pulses. Myhr assembled layers of guitars (electric and acoustic twelve-string) and electronics from the ground up, resulting in extended works whose insistence is attributable in part to the involvement of drummers Tony Buck (The Necks), Ingar Zach (Huntsville), and Hans Hulbækmo (Moskus). Don't get the wrong idea: Myhr isn't out to replicate the triple-drummer design of King Crimson in its current incarnation; instead, his partners contribute in slightly different ways, Buck credited with drums and percussion, Zach snares and percussion, and Hulbækmo hand percussion. As central as they are to the finished product, they don't dominate but instead support Myhr's playing by lending it rhythmic urgency.

Rather than charge from the gate, “A” begins with a peaceful, metreless mix of guitars, cymbals, and electronics. But such stillness doesn't last long: three minutes into the piece, the elements begin to awaken, the sound field blossoming as it readies itself for the sprint to come. If there's one sound that is the music's motor, it's Myhr's electric guitar strumming; once it locks into place, everything else follows and the collective, sun-dappled mass roils with insistent intent. Ride cymbals, drums, guitars, and electronics blend into a mighty, tripped-out mass that suggests some modern-day version of blissed-out hippie jams from another era. Unlike “A,” “B” opens animatedly with acoustic guitar strums establishing a comfortable, midtempo pace after which the music swells into a buzzing electric swarm as more instruments appear. As wild as the pieces sometimes are once they're operating at full force, Myhr nevertheless shapes them with an artful hand, the gradual decompression with which “A” is brought to a close a good example and the contrasts in dynamics that recur throughout “B” also indicative of his careful handling of the material.

January 2018