Hilde Marie Holsen-Lazuli. 

Label: Hubro Music.

Three years after releasing her critically acclaimed debut album Ask, trumpeter and soundscape artist  Hilde Marie Holsen returns with her much-anticipated sophomore Lazuli, on Hubro Music. It features a suite of four compositions that were inspired by visual art, and were named after minerals that are used to colour paint. Hilde Marie Holsen’s approach to composition was very to different to many artists.

Having partly composed the four compositions, Hilde Marie Holsen improvised the remainder of the soundscapes on Lazuli. Despite this approach, the suite sounds cohesive and fully formed. It’s also a dark, atmospheric and mysterious sounding album of carefully crafted soundscapes where the interplay between sound and music is captivating. Lazuli is a truly ambitious album of experimental music that will challenge the listener, and make them think about what constitutes music? This makes Lazuli a fitting followup to Ask, as Hilde Marie Holsen embarks upon the next stage of her career.

During her career, Hilde Marie Holsen has managed to combing the wistful, mournful and melancholy sound of the trumpet with electronic music. Sometimes, Hilde Marie Holsen adds effects to her trumpet, which transforms the sound of this traditional instrument. This is all part of Hilde Marie Holsen’s unique and inimitable sound as she creates music that has been described as somewhere between jazz, the contemporary and drone music. It’s new, ambitious and groundbreaking, which was the response to her debut album.

This was Ask which was released to widespread critical acclaim in 2015. Ask was a genre-melting album of soundscapes where Hilde Marie Holsen combined elements of abstract, avant-garde, experimental and improv. It was a groundbreaking album that left critics and record buyers excited about the followup to Ask.

Before that, Hilde Marie Holsen was part of the Dutch-Norwegian multidisciplinary live project Ljerke, who released their debut album Ljerke (Eilean 36) earlier in 2018. Ljerke’s debut album was a fusion of everything from acoustic ambient and avant-garde to classical, electronica and experimental. It was a captivating project from some of Holland and Norway’s top experimental musicians.

This included Hilde Marie Holsen who had recorded her sophomore album Lazuli at Galleri RAM, Oslo, on the ‘6th’ of June 2017. That day, it was just  Hilde Marie Holsen in the studio when she played her trumpet and array of electronic equipment. She worked quickly and efficiently having already composed part of the four tracks within the suite. The rest of the tracks saw Hilde Marie Holsen improvise and that day a suite fully formed songs were born.

Hilde Marie Holsen and Maja S. K. Ratkje then mixed Lazuli at Svartskog.  After that, all that was left was for Maja S. K. Ratkje to master Lazuli and her much-anticipated sophomore would be ready for release. However, Lazuli was no ordinary album.

There’s an intensity to the music on Lazuli which features a dialogue between the processes of composition and improvisation. Despite taking this rather unusual approach to composition and recording, everything had fallen into place during a recording session lasting just one day. The music was fully formed and Lazuli was complete.

It was a relief for Hilde Marie Holsen that she didn’t need to rerecord anything. Hilde Marie Holsen knew that if she rerecorded anything, it wouldn’t be for the better. It was similar to a writer changing a page in the book, and impossible for her to contemplate. 

The interaction of music and sound has resulted in an album of experimental compositions that are ambitious, innovative and challenging. By then, Hilde Marie Holsen had decided that the title to her sophomore album should be Lazuli, which are the chemical minerals used to create the pigment in paint. This was fitting as  Hilde Marie Holsen saw herself as a musician who painted with sound during the recording process.

There was still work to be done by Hilde Marie Holsen, and it was during the production process where Hilde Marie Holsen works her magic. Hilde Marie Holsen uses the production process to tweak and rework the recordings. This included the recording of her trumpet, where Hilde Marie Holsen added processing which transformed the dry signal. Suddenly, something new revealed itself. Hilde Marie Holsen had breathed new life and meaning into the original recording through the use of electronic effaces. It was the musical equivalent of turning water into wine, as musical alchemist Hilde Marie Holsen watched as a new musical work of art revealed itself to her.

Hilde Marie Holsen explains her approach during the recording of Lazuli: “all the electronic sounds on the album are still live and processed trumpet, as they were on ‘Ask…Since ‘Ask’, I’ve been exploring, among other things, different ways to play the acoustic trumpet, both conventional and unconventional, trying to find different timbres that can also give a larger register of processed sound in the electronic soundscape. The music on ‘Lazuli’ began as improvisation, and then later on I’ve had the chance to do minor adjustments and edits on the tracks. ‘Lazuli’ came about through a collaboration with the artist and painter Tyra Fure Brandsæter. We’ve spent some time practising our art together, using each other’s expression as an inspiration for our own performance and artistic production. The titles on the album are an homage to this collaboration: they are all different types of minerals that have been used as colour pigment in painting.”

There are similarities between visual art and the way that Hilde Marie Holsen worked to develop the suite of soundscapes on Lazuli. Initially, the soundscapes were minimalist, as Hilde Marie Holsen starts to introduce different sounds. This is akin to painter as they prepares the thick white ground on their blank canvas. Later, it will feature layers of oil as the picture starts to take shape and details emerge. It was the same for Hilde Marie Holsen as she added layer upon layer of disparate sounds to the soundscapes. Eventually, Hilde Marie Holsen had painted her musical picture which sonically was rich in detail. 

This was Hilde Marie Holsen’s sophomore album Lazuli, which is an impressive and innovative genre-melting album. It’s also cerebral, challenging and cinematic.  By the end of the suite of soundscapes on Lazuli, the listener will be thinking about what constitutes music?

Lazuli opens with Opriment a three-minute track which is the shortest on the album. Swirling sci-fi sounds are joined by a drone and what resembles as an aeroplane flies above the arrangement. It’s joined by the mournful, plaintive sound of the trumpet. Meanwhile, a myriad of whirrs, clicks, ticks and metallic sounds are joined by the rumbling sound of the aeroplane returning. This signals the entrance of an organ which adds a liturgical sound to this carefully crafted and cinematic  ruminative soundscape.

Scritchy, scratchy sounds are fired off as soon as Eskolaite unfolds. Soon, a myriad of sounds assail the listener and they rattle, rub, scrub and sometimes take on a metallic sound as effects transform the sound of the trumpet. It becomes a plaintive cry before wailing and reverberating. This it does as sweeping, bubbling and gurgling sounds are added and the trumpet brays and rasps. Later, it takes on a much more orthodox and melodic sound, as its rueful sound reverberates against a backdrop of droning and sweeping sounds. Soon, the jazz-tinged trumpet’s rueful sound becomes dubby and lysergic. Other times its played with power and the note is strangled as stew of sounds emerges from the genre-melting arrangement. Later, the meandering arrangement clicks and crackles as drones are added and the dubby trumpet quivers. Meanwhile, the aeroplane returns for another flyover, bringing to end this action packed soundscape that sets the imagination racing.

Initially, no effects have been added to the trumpet on Lapis. This allows the listener to hear Hilde Marie Holsen, who is a talented trumpeter. After a minute, there’s two resounding thuds, and soon,  the trumpet shimmers. Meanwhile, clanking, metallic,  gurgling, whirring  and dark droning sounds are added and add a menacing edge and provide a contrast to the mournfulness of the trumpet. Soon, an array of clanking and metallic sounds are joined by futuristic sounds as the whirring, droning ominous sound. Combined with the futuristic sounds it’s as if Hilde Marie Holsen has been asked to provide the score to a sci-fi movie. Her music is rich in imagery and filmic as a myriad of sounds combine with her trumpet. Sometimes, she overblows in the tradition of the free jazz musicians, but this only adds to what’s a powerful, futuristic filmic soundscape that is rich in imagery.

Lazuli closes with the title-track which is a near seventeen minute epic, which pushes musical boundaries to their limits and beyond. Just like the three previous parts of the suite, the music is cinematic as a variety of sounds and drones are deployed. The sounds vary, and range from shrill and splashes to futuristic and sci-fi and even droning and whirring. Their addition makes it sound as if it’s part of the soundtrack to a movie about interplanetary invasion or warfare. The music is atmospheric, moody and dramatic as the tension builds. Shrill strings are the perfect addition as scratchy, whining and whirring sounds are joined by drones. They all prove the perfect additions as the tension continues to build, before the trumpet enters.

When it does, the trumpet is played slowly and tenderly as it produces a rueful, ruminative sound as it’s accompanied by a whirring and droning sound. The beautiful lament that trumpet produces is haunting. Still sounds sweep in and out, as the drone is omnipresent even when the trumpeter drops out. It’s joined by gurgling, whining, bubbling and otherworldly sounds as the drone hovers above. Soon, the trumpet returns as sound flutter, scamper, hover and drone while others have a futuristic sound. Meanwhile, Hilde Marie Holsen’s trumpet playing is impassioned and haunting before it drops out. As a myriad of mesmeric, otherworldly sound replace the trumpet,  the listener wonders what has happened? Especially as otherworldly sounds gurgle, bubble, and cheep during this cinematic epic from soundscape artist extraordinaire Hilde Marie Holsen.

Hilde Marie Holsen’s sophomore album Lazuli, which has just been released on Hubro Music, is a fitting followup to Ask and is another groundbreaking opus from a musical pioneer. Stylistically i t finds Hilde Marie Holsen following in the footsteps of Terry Riley’s Music For The Gift, and experimental albums by Jon Hassell, Mark Isham and Graham Haynes. Closer to home, Hilde Marie Holsen is walking the same road as fellow Norwegians Nils Petter Molvaer and Ave Henriksen. Just like these musicians Hilde Marie Holsen’s music in ambitious, cerebral, challenging and innovative as she pushes music to their limit on this genre-melting album.

During the suite on Lazuli, Hilde Marie Holsen combines elements of ambient, avant-garde, classical, electronica, experimental, free jazz, improv, industrial and Musique concrète. The result is a captivating and cerebral album of cinematic music that is rich in imagery. Lazuli also encourages the listener to Ask what constitutes music? Hilde Marie Holsen’s sophomore album Lazuli is an ambitious album that features a filmic suite of groundbreaking and genre-melting music from a true musical pioneer who has a great future ahead of her.

Hilde Marie Holsen-Lazuli.

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