[CD Review] Lars Hornveth, 'Kaleidoscopic' (Smalltown Supersound)

A raft of ambition crammed into a single sprawling track, Lars Hornveth’s aptly titled Kaleidoscopic is an ambient-orchestral opus lasting just shy of 37 minutes. The Norwegian pioneer, best-known as leader of the Ninja Tune-signed Jaga Jazzist and the more pop-based the National Bank, here collaborates with a 41-person chunk of the Latvian National Orchestra, which is all the more impressive when you learn that he’s self-taught.

It’s only his second showing under his given name, following 2004’s Pooka, and yet Hornveth is able to work out many of his pet passions without spoiling the project’s dewy organic vibe. The piece begins with tremulous tones broadcasting serenity, though a careful tiptoe of tension creeps in after two minutes. The instrumentation—with Hornveth on piano, horns and clarinets—is so smooth it’s not always easy to discern when one instrument slips out of the mix and another slips in, contributing to the dreamy sense of transcendence.

Following the collective prettiness of the billows and breezes of its opening few sections, Kaleidoscopic turns to plinking electronics 10 minutes in, and soon after, it adopts an ominous undercurrent (think a sonar-crafted ode to the Jaws theme) as well as more lush ambience. Later, things get excitedly skittish before settling into a complex array of sounds that add up to a contagious, joyful vibrancy. Among it all, there are beach-y sheens that fans of Tortoise and the High Llamas should delight in.

The piece pauses for several seconds before its final three minutes, which function as a sort of epilogue. It’s quiet and twinkling, like a planetarium shutting down for the night. And like the rest of this one-off marvel, it’s soulful and thrilling, both buoyant and at sea.

 
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