photo by Ellen Qbertplaya

A look at music on the rise and causing waves around the globe.

Bugge Wesseltoft – Tide

To be inspired by anxiety, whilst not the ideal creative environment to exist in, can sometimes result in great beauty. Olso native Bugge Wesseltoft’s new album Be Am is one such example. Fearful for his family and loved ones during the pandemic, Bugge expresses the need for spiritual courage, reminding us of music’s pivotal role as a mental tonic.

It’s the piano that Wesseltoft is painting pictures with throughout the release, aided by recordings of birdsong, kalimba, the electric piano, as well as the saxaphone of Hakon Kornstad. Themes of hope and the solace of nature are evident on many tracks, and although most are steeped in melancholy, Wesseltoft is posting them as an act of creative ecstasy, of the overwhelming joy he takes in survival.

Sven Helbig – Metamorphosis

Learning a skill can happen imperceptibly – or the whole thing can be a total living nightmare. Whether you feel the pain of the development or not, though, it is there, and German neo-classical composer Sven Helbig is so fascinated by the building blocks of how the human brain acquires new abilities that he has composed ten new pieces on just that subject, each representing what he believes to be one of the pivotal stages of the process.

Helbig, who is a veteran of both the concert stage and the electronic underground, evokes the internal turmoil, frustrations and eventual glory of every painstaking moment. From ‘Induction’, where we take tentative steps out of the ether of uncertainty, with brass and strings attempting

to walk as one, like the front and hind end of a newborn deer, through the unshowy and controlled ‘Dedication’, to the almost zen-like state of grace of ‘Immersion’, where the cognitive interference clears and we find our groove, the listener intuitively understands the signals Helbig lays down.

A synthesised, muffled beat introduces ‘Repetition’, forming the track’s rhythm and propulsion, clarifying in tone as we gain confidence in our skill, as if we are crafting and perfecting the music ourselves as we go. But just like that, ‘Despair’ hits and the beat and rhythm have gone. Mournful strings lament our self-doubt and a mounting frustration and disillusionment sets in.
We have hit a wall.

Lore’ marks a re-dedication and return to founding principles, as bobbing brass parps and darting violins stab to signal forward progress with a flurry of adrenaline and a skip in the step, hope regained. Our rhythm re-asserted, ‘Vision’ allows for wonder, confident now in our ability and able to look out to the horizon, possibilities unfolding before us, while the combustible ‘Metamorphosis’ depicts the most dramatic collision of everything that has come before to create the final, streamlined, intrepid confidence of ‘Flow’.

The process effectively complete, we finish with the contemplative and elegant ‘Transfiguration’, which asks what new ground there could now be to cover. There is no bombast or cavalier swagger to our protagonist’s sense of achievement, but rather the hope of further discovery, a beautiful end note to a remarkably insightful psycho-musicological study. – via

Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime (Live)

With Afrique Victime the prodigious Tuareg guitarist and songwriter rips a new hole in the sky – boldly reforging contemporary Saharan music and “rock music” by melding guitar pyrotechnics, full-blast noise, and field recordings with poetic meditations on love, religion, women’s rights, inequality, and Western Africa’s exploitation at the hands of colonial powers.

“While people have gotten to know Mdou Moctar as a rock band, there is a whole different set of music with this band done on acoustic guitars, which we wanted to incorporate into this album in order to go through a sonic journey,” Moctar says. Mdou pays homage to one of his heroes Abdallah Ag Oumbadagou, the legendary Niger musician and political revolutionary, on songs “Ya Habibti” and “Layla”.

“Abdallah was a contemporary of Tinariwen and helped to pioneer the sound of Tuareg guitar music blended with drum machines and electronic sounds”. Afrique Victime sounds and feels like a Tuareg hand reaching down from the sky, and we are very lucky for this chance to get lifted. – Bandcamp

The 2022 Deluxe Edition of the “Afrique Victime” album is out now.

Joanna Nicholson – Gyre

Scottish musician Joanna Nicholson delivers contemorary classical compositions for clarinet and electronics, featuring music written by Kerry Hagan, William Sweeney, Matthew Whiteside, Jonathan Nangle and Joanna herself.

“The selection and preparation of works for this album meant a time of reflection on recent years of solo performing, from 2014-18. It was illuminating to revisit repertoire following a period of creative development working on other things, and consider possible new angles and musical choices.
I sought with this programme to create an arc’d listening journey, beginning quite far away, and the listener being drawn closer with each piece, until uncomfortably close in Requiem – then slipping gradually further away again, the feeling being that you have passed by the player, or the concert, and, even as you can no longer hear it, the music continues on. The picture in my mind is a distant boat approaching and moving past the gyre of gannets I describe in my piece.” – Joanna Nicholson