Textura review:


Green Isac Orchestra: Green Isac Orchestra

Spotted Peccary Music 

A listener enamoured of Spotted Peccary's recent output might understandably come to Green Isac Orchestra's self-titled release expecting another helping of the refined synthesizer-heavy ambient music the label's lately issued. Needless to say, the Norwegian-based group traffics in a dramatically different style, one that blends elements of post-rock, electronica, ambient, and World music into a highly distinctive and personalized electro-acoustic fusion.

The project isn't an entirely new venture: multi-instrumentalist Morten Lund and percussionist Andreas Eriksen have operated under the Green Isac name since 1991, but for this latest collection on the Spotted Peccary label they've added Frode Larsen (percussion), Tov Ramstad (electric cello, saw), and Jo Wang (piano, mellotron, therevox, synths) and re-christened it the Green Isac Orchestra. To bolster the band feel, the album's seven tracks were recorded live in the studio, a move that sees an effective balance achieved between polish and spontaneity. A smart move it was, too, as the music exudes a vitality that can sometimes be lacking when material's methodically assembled layer by layer. That the album's self-titled also feels right, intimating as it does a slate wiped clean and a new beginning.

The quintet casts a wide stylistic net and does so abetted by a globe-spanning mini-orchestra of instruments that includes piano, mellotron, synthesizers, electronic drums, cello, kalimba, and percussion. All such sounds are used organically in the service of the material and help bring the group's Fourth World fusion into focus. In fact, there are times when an arrangement is so rich in instrument sounds, it's hard to believe that the material was executed live. At such moments, it becomes especially evident that great care must have been given to working out the arrangements beforehand so that they could be executed flawlessly.

To their credit, Lund and Eriksen don't treat the added musicians as hired hands but as equal contributors to the total sound. As if to drive the point home, Ramstad's cello is prominently featured in the marvelous opener “Emmesity,” a punchy and melodically strong 5/4 workout that swings with determination. It's hardly the singular dominant sound, however, as percussion, piano, saw, and guitar are also focal points within the arrangement. Abetted by the presence of Elvind Aarest on guitar, the slow-motion “Thón” exudes dream-like qualities of mystery and intrigue that act on the listener like a narcotic; the closing “57 Varieties,” by comparison, deftly threads minimalism-styled patterns into an alternately kinetic and rollicking 7/4 pulse like it's the most natural thing in the world.

Lund, Eriksen, and company are to be commended for confidently weaving a huge number of disparate acoustic and electronic sounds into a given production with little apparent concern for how it might end up stylistically branded. What comes out the other end sounds like nothing more or less than the Green Isac Orchestra, which I'm guessing would be exactly to their liking.

January 2016