Ellen Arkbro - Chords LP
With Chords, the Stockholm-based musician and composer Ellen Arkbro returns to Subtext, following her acclaimed debut album For Organ And Brass (SUB 011CD/021LP, 2017). This new long-player sees Arkbro adopt a more minimalist approach, focusing on the immediate qualities of sound and elegantly expanding the tonal capacities of acoustic instruments using precise, subtle synthesis. Composed of a carefully selected combination of tones, Chords stretches, extends and obscures the timbral character of the instruments it is performed on. Across both tracks, Arkbro examines the sonic materiality and harmonic quality of chords. She considers how the compositions occupy space rather than time -- transposing theoretical possibilities into the phenomenal realm. As a part of Arkbro's systematic investigation of harmonic sound, Chords proffers a divergence from conventional ways of listening. "Chords For Organ" was first envisaged in Stockholm's brutalist Västerort Church. With an interest in tuned intervals and chords, Arkbro sought out particular harmonicities before synthetically supplying additional harmonic content and texture. To pure fifths and octaves, she adds synthesized natural sevenths and thirds, creating a heightened sense of harmonic stability. While this incarnation of "Chords For Organ" was recorded in Malmö's St. John's Church, this work is site-specific, requiring Arkbro to seek out appropriate chordal orchestrations in registers and tunings on each respective instrument, when performing live. "Chords For Organ" has been adapted and performed in Martin Luther Kirche in Dresden, Civico Tempio Di San Sebastiano in Milan, First Unitarian Church in Brooklyn, Lutherse Kerk in Den Haag and Sint-Jan de Doperkerk in Leuven. In the corresponding "Chords For Guitar" Arkbro applies her process to a more widely accessible instrument. Employing a fine-tuned Karplus-Strong synthesis, she supplements additional tones to create a harmonically controlled blend of the acoustic and the synthetic. "Chords For Guitar" places the listener at the center of a cyclically repeating complex of harmonic strings in wave-like motion. Attention is synchronously fixed with the sound as this chordal harmony rises, vibrates, and purrs away, before rising again. As she transposes these ideas across organ and guitar, Arkbro teases out their affinities and dissimilarities, and, in doing so, effectively highlights the harmonic character of the work as a whole.