Music Reviews

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Artist: Extra Large Unit
Title: More Fun Please
Format: CD + Download
Label: PNL Records
Pals Nilsson-Love’s Large Unit ensemble get a temporary super-boost, adding a whole host of other performers to create a 27-person ensemble featuring three grand pianos, multiple accordions and percussionists, and plenty of brass. Recorded live at a concert in Oslo in May 2017, it’s an ambitious task to scale up the compositional approach for this short-term surfeit of performers. And at first, from the piece’s title and the opening few minutes, it feels more like everyone’s been gathered together for a party rather than a performance- loose vibes and chatter abound.

But that isn’t true throughout. After a few minutes, stillness is imposed, silence becomes the majority part, and thus begins the piece’s core structure- that of slow ramping, in various parts, up from stillness into different flavours of cacophony that mostly, but not always, have a jovial and jazzy flavour to them. The energy comes in waves, sections building to peaks, dropping off and then a new wave comes with a different configuration of performers in the driving seat. The next bout of stillness is where the emotive stillness really resides- particularly in long, drawn-out string sustains and drone sections reminiscent of Lygeti.

It makes a pleasant change to hear avantgarde and impulsive music that wears its sense of humour with pride. There’s no suggestion that things are not being taken seriously, but it’s certainly reflections on a broader slice of life, including the lighter side, at play here. As such it’s quite welcoming, potentially even a good way of introducing new listeners to the genre. You won’t be blown away by its scale or its level of invention, but as an accomplished, relatively big-budget bit of experimental classical, it’s a premium product.



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