Collected Works: Music
by Esbjörn Svensson Trio
Power chords ring out, waves of feedback mixing with incomprehensible fragments of conversation. In turn, the chatter is impolitely interrupted by a volley of drumming. The voices arise again, seemingly indifferent, only to be swallowed once more by a rising tide of frantic harmonies. Tension builds but, though we wait, the speech does not return a third time. Disappearing into the ether, its meaning becomes lost, unable to survive the altercation.
Not every composition on Leucocyte is so unsettled. Most move in slowly shifting soundscapes, altering through subtle alterations in colour and tone. ‘Premonition: Earth’ becomes denser as it progresses, layers of musical material coalescing, sediment building. On ‘Jazz’, a parody of a bebop groove emerges from the sawn buzz of a bowed double bass. ‘Ad Infinitum’ obsessively repeats a tolling, bell-like ring, before finally dissolving away as the record ends.
Each of the three musicians are subjected to pressures through electroacoustic manipulation. The closing track is almost entirely electronic, its alien sounds ostensibly distant from traditional conceptions of jazz. But despite these sonic eccentricities, the background of the album’s production suggests a lasting loyalty. The collection of pieces was recorded during a two-day-long session of free improvisation, an archetypal method for the genre.
The work’s title suitably alludes to its dichotomous character. Leucocytes, or white blood cells, stabilise substances foreign to the body, safeguarding from infections. A gruesome image is mingled with positive connotations of life and protection. The word also fits the group’s creative approach, in which small musical blocks combine to form biodigital hybrids. Elements that may have once been considered alien to jazz are absorbed: strings intersect with synths; human utterances are distorted.
Words by Lewis Coenen-Rowe
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