Tortusa and Breistein-Mind Vessel.

Label: Jazzland Recordings.

In March 2016, Norwegian-American electronic musician John Derek Bishop a.k.a.Tortusa, released his critically acclaimed debut album I Know This Place-The Eivind Aarset Collages on Jazzland Recordings. It was hailed by critics as an ambitious and innovative album of groundbreaking music. 

The judges of the prestigious Spellemann Prize 2016 agreed, and later in 2016, I Know This Place-The Eivind Aarset Collage was nominated in the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award in the electronic category. This was a huge honour for the Stavanger-based musician, who was regarded as one of the rising stars of Norwegian music. 

Sadly, there’s no fairy tale ending, and Tortusa didn’t win his first Spellemann Prize. However, the nomination lifted Tortusa’s profile, and introduced his music to a new audience.

Buoyed by the success of his critically acclaimed debut album I Know This Place-The Eivind Aarset Collages, Tortusa’s thoughts soon turned to his sophomore album. However, while many critics thought that Tortusa would return with a new solo album, he decided to collaborate with Norwegian saxophonist Inge W. Breistein. The resulting album Mind Vessel which was recently released by Jazzland Recordings, and is the much-anticipated collaboration between Tortusa and Breistein.

This may have seemed like an unlikely collaboration, but the two musicians have much in common. When Tortusa was still known as John Derek Bishop, he studied jazz music and played both standup and electric bass. It looked like he was about to become part of the thriving and vibrant Norwegian jazz scene. That was until John Derek Bishop discovered electronic music.

As John Derek Bishop became Tortusa, and embarked upon a career as an electronic musician, he used an array of samplers and synths, rather than his beloved basses. The samplers and synths became part of Tortusa’s new musical arsenal. So did the ambient sounds that he has spent the best part of ten years collecting. This library of ambient sounds would play an important part in Tortusa’s musical future. 

I Know This Place-The Eivind Aarset Collage.

When the time came for Tortusa to record his debut album, he used a vast array of ambient samples to create eight carefully crafted collages that became his debut album I Know This Place-The Eivind Aarset Collage.The samples played an important part in what was akin to musical tapestry. So did the various effects which Tortusa deployed, ranging from reverb to delays or echo. However, when the time came for Eivind Aarset to Maybe You Still Do and There’s So Much Static, guitarist Eivind Aarset was brought onboard.

Apart from that, Tortusa’s debut album I Know This Place-The Eivind Aarset Collage was all his own work. He had written, recorded and mixed the album with Steven Grant Bishop. Tortusa who is a talented visual artist even provided the photos that featured on his critically acclaimed debut album I Know This Place-The Eivind Aarset Collage.

Mind Vessel.

When the time came to record the followup to I Know This Place-The Eivind Aarset Collage, Tortusa decided to bring onboard freelance musician  Inge W. Breistein. The Norwegian composer and saxophonist has previously recorded with Alveland, Grønn Te, Psudoku and Egg3, but never had enjoyed star billing. That would change with the release of Mind Vessel.

Before recording began, Tortusa explained his plans to Inge W. Breistein. Tortusa explained that he wanted to record Inge W. Breistein’s saxophone, which would then be sampled and processed through electronic software and hardware. Longer sections of the soundscapes were improvised sections and the melodies were partially composed. They were combined with hypnotic rhythmic repetition, layers of harmonic textures and the all-important ambience. 

On the soundscapes on Mind Vessel, the ambience plays an important part in the music which was recorded is a variety of large rooms at the Cultural Center, and a former brewery Tou Scene, in Tortusa’s home town of Stavanger. The sound of these rooms is regarded as every bit as important as the notes that a musician plays. Indeed, a recordist will take tine choosing the right room to record a track or an album. That was the case with Mind Vessel, where organically produced sounds are manipulated using an array of electronic software and hardware. This was something that has fascinated Tortusa throughout his career as an electronic musician. It was no different on Mind Vessel where Tortusa and Breistein join forces.

The ten carefully crafted collages on Mind Vessel showcases Tortusa and Breistein’s electronic-experimental sound, where the pair flit between and combine disparate musical genres. Listen carefully, and elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronic, jazz, Nordic Wave and minimalist music shine through. So does the influence of Aphex Twin, Biosphere, Boards Of Canada, Brian Eno and Jon Hopkins. There’s also a nod to Flying Lotus and even Oneotrix Point Never and Xploding Plastix as Tortusa and Breistein push musical boundaries to their limits in the pursuit of an ambitious and innovative album.

That is the case from the opening bars of Hopes which opens Mind Vessel, and introduces the listener to the talented duo of Tortusa and Breistein. Waves of this slow, understated and cinematic soundscape unfold, and wash over the listener and suddenly, the world seems a better place. The combination of Tortusa’s ambient sounds and Breistein’s wistful saxophone proves a potent one, and whets the listener’s appetite for the rest of Mind Vessel. 

This includes the minimalist Snow Mold, where later, Breistein’s rueful and rasping saxophone adds the finishing touch. Sounds scamper along during the genre-melting Corrosion Is A Natural Process, where improvisation plays an important part in this melodic electronic-experimental soundscape, that in places, harks back to nineties downtempo music. Cinematic and dramatic describes There’s Beauty In That which ebbs and flows as it reveals its secrets. Breistein’s rasping saxophone plays a leading role during Mind Vessel, as it bobs above a sea of ambient sounds. Initially, Keep Coming Back could be described as minimalist, before a jazz-tinged saxophone enters and later, combines with samples and sci-fi sounds as Tortusa sculpts another captivating and melodic soundscape. 

During Ladder, Breistein’s rasping saxophone reverberates and paints pictures as it drifts atop the sea of ambient sound created by Tortusa. It meanders and flows, while the saxophone is melodic and mesmeric. 

Although the titles to Mind Vessel may hint at Tortusa and Breistein’s intention, sometimes it’s better for the listener to let their imagination run riot. That is the case on Ceiling Filled With Water, where Eastern sounds are part of Tortusa’s musical tapestry. Above this bubbling backdrop sits Breistein’s braying saxophone, while is replaced by a myriad of sounds and samples as Tortusa weaves a vivid musical tapestry. 

Futuristic and hypnotic otherworldly sounds open the filmic Oestroidea, before Breistein’s saxophone enters and is played briskly and with a degree of freedom. Together,Tortusa and, Breistein combine to create a jazz-tinged, filmic collage that is one of their finest hours. 

Closing Mind Vessel Rusting In The Shallow Deep where Tortusa and Breistein paints pictures of a once proud ship being towed to the its final resting place. Fittingly, there’s a sombre sound to the music. Sometimes, it sounds as if this one proud vessel is scraping against an obstacle, but nobody cares as it’s heading to a watery grave. This adds a poignancy to this cinematic collage which  closes Mind Vessel on a  high.

After the release of Mind Vessel, Tortusa and Breistein embarked upon a tour, and played in Norway, Germany and England. Concert-goers watched as the duo improvised parts of songs, and replicated some of the songs on Mind Vessel. To do that, Tortusa used live sampling and deployed loops and used pre-recorded material effects, while Breistein’s saxophone added the final piece of the jigsaw during this series of concerts, where a new audience discovered some of the music on Mind Vessel. 

Mind Vessel which is a collaboration between Tortusa and Breistein, is a fitting followup to the critically acclaimed I Know This Place-The Eivind Aarset Collage. There’s not a weak track on this captivating album of carefully crafted collages where musical genres combine.

Tortusa and Breistein combine elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronic, free jazz, improv, jazz, Nordic Wave and minimalist music. These musical genres are weaved by Tortusa and Breistein during Mind Vessel, which is carefully crafted genre-melting album from two musical pioneers that is ambitious and innovative.

Tortusa and Breistein-Mind Vessel.

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