When doom jazz trio Splashgirl released their sophomore album Arbor in 2009, it was the first release on the newly formed Hubro Music label. Since then, a lot has happened to both Splashgirl and Hubro Music.
Both Splashgirl and Hubro Music’s star have been in the ascendancy. Splashgirl have released two critically acclaimed albums, 2011s Pressure and 2013s Field Day Rituals. These two albums reinforced Splashgirl’s reputation’s one of Norwegian music’s most innovative groups. As a result, their music has been embraced my music lovers far and wide. That’s the case with Hubro Music.
Ever since 2009, Hubro Music has released groundbreaking music. It’s roster includes some of the most groundbreaking artists and bands. They release albums that pushes musical boundaries. These albums are released to widespread critical acclaim. That’s why nowadays, the Hubro Music’s logo is a sign of quality and music that’s innovative and inventive. The same can be said about Splashgirl’s new album Hibernation.
It’s one of the most anticipated albums of 2016 so far. Hibernation, which will be released by Hubro Music on 12th February 2016, is the long-awaited fifth album from musical mavericks Splashgirl. Hibernation finds Splashgirl continue to work closely with producer Randall Dunn. He has guided Splashgirl as they change direction musically on Hibernation. It seems that Splashgirl aren’t willing to stand still. They never have been.
The Splashgirl story began in Oslo in 2003. That’s when Andreas Lønmo Knudsrød, Andreas Stensland Løwe and Jo Berger Myhre decided to form a group together. This group they called Splasgirl. It was no ordinary group.
Splashgirl were a doom jazz group who decided to combine traditional instruments and technology. This was new, exciting and innovative. The members of Splashgirls were one part musician, to one part musical alchemist. Practice rooms and recording studios became a place where Splashgirl experimented with their arsenal of musical instruments and technology
Drummer and percussionist Andreas Lønmo Knudsrø also deployed drum machines when Splashgirl made music. Andreas’ partner in the rhythm section Jo Berger Myhre switches between double bass and a tone generator. The final member of Splashgirl was
pianist Andreas Stensland Løwe. He also played various synths, a clavinet and organ. This captivating combination would be showcased on Splashgirl’s debut album Doors Keys.
By 2007, Splashgirl had been together for four years. They had spent four years honing and tightening their sound. Having taken tentative steps onto the live scene, Splashgirl were now a familiar face around Oslo. However, many people remarked that still, Splashgirl hadn’t released a debut album. It was time to rectify this.
Nine tracks were composed, and would be recorded at Bugge’s Room, the studio owned by Bugge Wesseltoft. At Bugge’s Room, Splashgirl took charge of production. They were joined by guest artists Lars Holmen Kurverud on bass clarinet, tenor saxophonist Joel Wästberg an violinist Sebastian Gruchot. They played their part on what became Doors. Keys., Splashgirl’s debut album.
Later in 2007, the Oslo based jazz trio Splashgirl released their debut album Doors. Keys. It was well received by critics, who forecast a bright future for one of the newest names in Norwegian jazz.
Two year after the release of their debut album, Splashgirl returned with their sophomore album Arbor. By then, Splashgirl’s profile was rising. They were a regular fixture on the live circuit, and were being tipped as one of Norwegian music’s rising stars.
Especially, once Arbor was released. It featured nine new tracks which were penned and produced by Splashgirl. These songs were recorded at Biermannsgården, where Splashgirl were joined by multi-instrumentalist Lasse Passage and Anders Hofstad Sørås on pedal steel. The two guest artists augmented Splashgirl’s considerable skills on this sonic adventure. It was released in 2009 on a new label, Hubro Music.
Arbor was released in 2009, bearing the the serial number HUBRO CD2500. Hubro Music was a new name for many people. Not for long. Especially if they continued to release albums of the quality of Arbor. Here was an album that caught the imagination of critics. Arbor marked the coming of age for Splashgirl. They had released an album of ambitious, groundbreaking and innovative music. It was the perfect way to launch a new label. Little did anyone know this was the start of the rise and rise of Splashgirl and Hubro Music.
Another two years passed before Splashgirl released another album. However, by then, their music was finding a wider audience. So 2011 was the perfect time to release a new album.
Recording of Pressure, Splashgirl’s third album, took place at Malabar Studios. There, Splashgirl were joined by several guest artists. This included Lasse Passage, who would experiment with tape and field recordings. He was joined by guitarist Juhani Silvola, tubaist Martin Taxt, trombonist Erik Johannessen and vocalist Mari Kvien Brunvoll. Together, they helped Splashgirl create what was the best album of their career.
When Pressure was released on Hubro Music in 2011, it was to widespread critical acclaim. It was their most ambitious, inventive and innovative album. Splashgirl were at their most experimental on Pressure, where they were joined by some of the leading lights of the Norwegian music scene. Pressure was their finest hour, and the album that saw Splashgirl and Hubro Music move into the limelight.
Soon, Splashgirl were touring Europe, where their music was embraced by a much wider audience. Meanwhile, Hubro Music were now regarded as a record label that was synonymous with groundbreaking music. Everyone it seemed was a winner, and that would continue to be the case.
Field Day Rituals.
Nearly another two years passed, and Splashgirl returned with the fourth album of their career in February 2013. By then, it was fast approaching Splashgirl’s tenth anniversary. However, only six years had passed since Splashgirl released their debut. Now they were about to release Field Day Rituals on Hubro music. It marked a change for Splashgirl.
Previously, Splashgirl had produced their first three albums. For Field Day Rituals, they brought onboard producer Randall Dunn. He had an impressive track record, having worked with Earth, Sunn O))), Marissa Nadler, Black Mountian and The Cave Singers. His C.V. convinced Splashgirl to bring him onboard for the recording of Field Day Rituals.
Randall Dunn wasn’t the only recruit for the Field Day Rituals’ sessions. Joining team Splashgirl, were Timothy Mason and Eyvind Kang on viola. They aided and abetted Splashgirl as the album took shape at Avast! Recording Co., in Seattle. Eventually, Field Day Rituals was completed, and Splashgirl could celebrate their tenth anniversary with the release of their fourth album.
When Field Day Rituals was released in February 2013, by Hubro Music, it was hailed as Splashgirl’s greatest album. This wasn’t the first time critics had said this. However, Splashgirl weren’t going to tire of hearing this. Critical acclaim was sweet music to their ears. That was no surprise.
Field Day Rituals found Splashgirl at their most adventurous and ambitious. They seemed determined to push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, it seemed way beyond. It was no surprise that Splashgirl were now regarded as one of leading lights of the Norwegian jazz scene. Their rise and rise had mimicked that of Hubro Music.
No longer was Hubro Music the small label it had been in 2009. By 2013, it was one of the most respected and forward thinking European labels. It released an eclectic selection of groundbreaking music. That wasn’t surprising. Hubro Music’s roster was like a who’s who of Norwegian music. One of the “crown jewels” were doom jazz trio Splashgirl.
They had been busy since the release of Field Day Rituals. Splashgirl had toured as Europe, America and Japan. This didn’t leave much time to record an album. However, somehow, Splashgirl found time to record their fifth album Hibernation with producer Randall Dunn.
Hibernation featured another nine new compositions from Splashgirl. Andreas Stensland Løwe wrote Hibernation, Scorch, Redshift and Rebounds. He also cowrote Community and Two Degrees with Jo Berger Myhre; who wrote Bleak Warm Future. The other track Rounds, was penned by the three members of Splashgirl. Once the nine songs were written, Splashgirl headed to HIjóðriti Studio in Hafnarfjördur, Iceland.
It wasn’t just Splashgirl that made the journey to HIjóðriti Studio at the start of September 2015, it was their array of equipment. In Andreas Lønmo Knudsrød’s case, this meant drums, percussion and a drum machine. This was almost travelling light. Especially when compared to Andreas Stensland Løwe. He played a grand piano, and had to unpack and setup a several synths, including an Arp Solina, Korg Delta and Prophet 5. That’s not forgetting a clavinet, harmonium and “electronics.” This left Jo Berger Myhre, who travelled with his trusty double bass, a halldorophone plus two synths. A Mini Moog and Jupiter 8 were Jo Berger Myhre’s weapon of choice. Despite such an impressive array of equipment, Splashgirl were lacking a saxophonist. Luckily, they knew the very man.
This was none other Eric Walton, or Skerik as the Seattle based saxophonist is known as in musical circles. A pioneer of saxophonics, Skerik combines electronics and his loops in his music. Just like the three members of Splashgirl, Skerik was an innovator. This made him the perfect person to play on Hibernation. So Skerit made the journey to HIjóðriti Studio in Hafnarfjördur, with his tenor and baritone saxophones. He was the missing piece in the musical jigsaw.
With just a week to record the nine tracks that became Hibernation, Splashgirl had to work quickly. That can’t have been easy, given they were using such an array of instruments and equipment. Some of the synths were vintage synths, which can be unreliable. However, Splashgirl began recording on 5th September 2015, and had managed to record Hibernation by the 11th September 2015. All that was left was for Hibernation to be mixed.
Producer Randall Dunn mixed Hibernation at Avast! Recording Co., in Seattle. Then Jason Ward mastered Hibernation at Chicago Mastering Service. Now Hibernation was ready for release.
Before that, Hibernation was scrutinised by the critics. When they heard the album, they realised that musical mavericks Splashgirl had changed direction sonically. Synths, electronics and processing was used much more than on previous albums. While this was very different to previous albums, the reinvention of Splashgirl had been a success.
Hibernation was hailed as the most ambitious and innovative album from doom jazz pioneers Splashgirl. That’s apparent from the opening bars of Hibernation.
Opening Hibernation is the title-track. Deliberately, a piano plays slowly and ominously. Soon, drones emerge from the arrangement, filling the space left the piano. When it returns, it’s accompanied by what sounds like one of Iceland’s volcanos erupting. Despite that, there’s an ethereal and elegiac sound. Contrasts it seems, are everywhere. Later, the sculpted eruption combines with drones and a harmonium. Its unmistakable sound adds another layer and texture to a slow almost pedestrian and pensive soundscape. It showcases the new Splashgirl, as they reinvent their music.
A synth adds a droning sound as Reducer unfolds. It’s not unlike a warning signal from a ship making its way through the mist. Soon, the drone is honed and sculpted, as a myriad of electronics and sound effects are added. So is a scrubbed guitar, drums and plink plonk piano. Together, they create a dramatic cinematic soundscape, which would grace the soundtrack to any Nordic drama or film noir.
Bleak Warm Future sees doom jazz trio Splashgirl seemingly head in in the direction of post rock. The piano, guitar and drums combine, playing slowly and deliberately, as they explore the theme. Their jazz background shines through. Soon, it’s the time for star of saxophonics Skerik to make his debut. His braying, scorching saxophone adds an element of drama, before dropping out. Then the arrangement becomes mesmeric, before Splashgirl drop the tempo and an understated sound takes shape. Just drums, percussion and piano combine as the soundscape takes on a thoughtful, wistful sound. Later, sound effects are added as the piano is played confidently and firmly. Everything else is playing a supporting role, including the double bass and drums. After five minutes, three become four, and Skerik sprays his scorching saxophone across the soundscape. It proves the perfect addition, as Splashgirl head for the finish line, on this glorious fusion of doom jazz, post rock, avant-garde and free jazz.
There’s an almost industrial sound to Rounds. Drums and percussion play slowly, leaving plenty of space in the arrangement. Soon, a gong sounds, a pensive piano plays and a bell rings. Washes of synths are then added as a beautiful, almost ethereal soundscape unfolds. It’s sculpted and hued by Splashgirl. They have the uncanny ability to add the right instrument at the right time. That’s the case whether its the piano, guitar and gently rasping, braying guitar. Then at 3.51 the soundscape almost grinds to a halt, leaving just the occasional brief reminder of what’s beatific, elegiac and cinematic soundscape.
Just like previous tracks, Scorch paints pictures in the listener’s mind’s eye. All the listener needs to do, is follow Funkadelic’s advice and “free your mind.” A drone arrives from the distance. It’s the result of Jo’s double bass, with effects added. Soon, the soundscape crackles and drones. Listen carefully, and sounds flit in and out. Some make a brief appearance, others stay longer. This includes the piano. It’s probed, while synths produce an array of sounds. They crackle, bristle and drone. However, Splashgirl tame the tiger, and sculpt these disparate sounds into a dramatic and intense slice of doom jazz. Later, musical alchemists Spashgirl unleash an array of futuristic sounds that compliment the melancholy beauty of the piano. They’re augmented by what sound like explosions and later, fireworks. As they soar above the rest of soundscape, it’s as if they’re celebrating the triumphant return of Splashgirl, with this latest sonic masterpiece.
The skin of Andreas’ bass drum is pounded on Community. His snare drum cracks, while a piano and shakers combine. Reverb is added to the drums, and they head into the distance, before dissipating. As the piano plays, it has a Cuban influence. Jo’s bass adds a moody, ominous sound. In the background, feedback shrieks, and deep within the mix a myriad of sound can be heard.This is all part of the plan and Splashgirl’s musical palette. They use each of these elements, carefully honing and sculpting them so that they become another texture or layer on this moody, sometimes hypnotic, genre-melting soundscape. Elements of dub, doom jazz, free jazz, avant-garde and experimental music.
With a firmly plucked bass at the forefront of the arrangement, Redshift quickly showcases a dramatic, cinematic backdrop. It’s up the listener to supply the script. Flourishes of piano and washes of synths add to the drama and urgency. Cymbals ring out and occasionally, the bass drum is pounded. Soon, effects are added to the piano. It sounds not just distant, but elegiac. Later, what sounds like angelic, ethereal harmonies are added, as the arrangement briefly crackles, beeps and squeaks before reaching a beatific crescendo.
Jo’s bass is a scene-setter on Two Degrees. He plays carefully and firmly, plucking notes slowly. Soon, he’s joined by a piano and drums caressed by brushes. By then, the soundscape is reminiscent to a sixties film noir. Suspense and mystery spring to mind as Splashgirl play. Especially, as the tempo begins to rise slightly and Splashgirl play with a degree of purpose. It’s as if they’re following a script to a remake of a film noir favourite like Quicksand or Shoot to Kill. The addition of washes elegiac synths are the icing on what’s a delicious musical cake.
Rebounds closes Hibernation. Firmly and insistently the piano is played, a melancholy sound quickly unfolding. Soon, a bass and shakers join the piano. Later, so does a harmonium. It adds to Rebounds’ rueful, wistful sound and later, dramatic sound. The drama occurs as the soundscape reaches a crescendo, and Splashgirl bid the listener farewell, on Hibernation a career defining album.
Hibernation is the fifth album from Norwegian doom jazz pioneers, Splashgirl. It’s also the finest album of their twelve year career. That’s despite Splasgirl deciding to change direction musically on Hibernation which will be released bu Hubro Music on 12th February 2016.
That was a huge risk. Splashgirl had found and honed their sound over four critically acclaimed albums. However, Splashgirl aren’t the type of group who could or would rerecord the same album. That’s for lesser bands, not musical mavericks and pioneers like Splashgirl. So when they made their way to Hljodriti Studio in Hafnarfjördur in September 2015, the decision was made. Splashgirl would make more use of synths, electronics and processing. They play a more important part in Hibernation, which features Splashgirl at their most inventive and innovative.
As Splashgirl innovate, the combine disparate musical genres. Elements of avant-garde, classical, drone, free jazz, post rock jazz and rock. All these genres play their part in Hibernation. It veers between cinematic, dramatic, melancholy and wistful, and sometimes, beautiful, elegiac and ethereal. Hibernation is an album to embrace and cherish, where musical alchemists Splashgirl create a cinematic Magnus Opus.