Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin (born 1957) belongs to that school of Scandinavian composers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries who are grounded in the techniques of modernism, but who employ those techniques in music that's immensely and immediately appealing to broad audiences in the directness of its emotional reach and the attractiveness of its sound. The three pieces recorded here, an orchestral work, a percussion concerto and a concerto for six percussionists, reveal a composer with an extraordinarily colorful orchestrational palette, fine sense of large musical structure, and an elemental rhythmic vitality.
It was hardly a surprise that the follow-up to M's debut album didn't contain a song as groundbreaking as "Pop Muzik" – or a tune that was anywhere near as big a hit as his one and only global chart-topper. Instead of trying to duplicate that near-perfect slice of electro, M (aka Robin Scott) veered off in several directions, exploring a slightly rockier sound as well as a fair amount of experimental noodling.
The two guitarists take the opportunity on “Father And Son” to explore and to exploit these multiple possibilities to the full: “Irish Vagabond” combines full-on Irish folk music with Arabic elements. “Mistral” is rhythmically punchy, almost like a rock tune, and also has echoes of Al Di Meola. In this tune Ulf Wakenius recounts an experience he had while on tour with Youn Sun Nah. At the Avignon Festival, a powerful wind from the South “almost blew me off the stage, so I decided to write a song about it.” Their “Eleanor Rigby” is captivating; as they honour the Beatles, they achieve a sonority remarkably close to a string quartet. “Paco’s Delight” pays tribute to the unforgettable Paco de Lucía, but their Spanish flamenco technique is also imbued with the buoyancy and verve of Django Reinhardt’s Hot Club swing.
“The Big Wig” is a masterpiece by the multi-talented vocal marvel Andreas Schaerer. This is a work which situates him quite clearly and definitively among the most important composers and interpreters of contemporary music of his generation.
Nguyên Lê is a maverick, a hyper-fluent guitarist with a penchant for mixing up genres. Born in Paris of Vietnamese descent, he’s regarded as a jazz musician, though his most celebrated albums pay tribute to 60s rock gods like Hendrix and Floyd. Here he teams up with a young traditionalist, Ngô Hong Quang, on fiddle and lute to portray “the soul of Vietnam” and its quickening evolution. There are jaunty folkish tunes, temple bells and ethereal melodies with titles like Heaven’s Ground, but nothing arrives without surprises. One moment you are among mountain clouds, then Lê unleashes a storm of widdly-diddly electric axe. Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu adds elegant Milesesque licks to a remarkable fusion of ancient and modern.