Fred Lonberg Holm / Frode Gjerstad – Life On Sandpaper


The sentence “Life on Sandpaper is a title of a book I read in Altadena in the summer of 2013 while visiting BB” is divided into nine segments naming each of the tracks of this album. Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello) and Frode Gjerstad (clarinets and bass sax) belong to the category of inquisitive players who aren’t easily intimidated when it comes to finding ways to challenge improvisational conventions. Establishing a connection with a superior scheme of (mainly dissonant) things is required to enjoy the fruits of their labor; translate this as the necessity of repeated investigation to authentically detect this record’s irregular growth.

The above paragraph should not discourage less intrepid audiences. A considerable amount of lyricism is camouflaged within two-line counterpoints that, in certain instances, might even irritate the listener in the wrong frame of mind. Purity and impurity coexist quite pacifically in most of these instant creations, and we’re just referring to the timbral aspect of the matter. In terms of mere “listening gratification” we could solve the problem of explaining how this stuff sounds by comparing its difficulties to an in-your-face version of serialism. Practically speaking, memorizing phrases or exchanges is not an option; there are no hierarchies for notes, noises, and anything in between. Should anyone mutter “anarchy”, consider that it takes some control to make this work.

Still, an unquestionable feel of comprehensive integrity emerges from every piece, encompassing hints and clues to a heterodox product vaguely entrenched with free jazz and modernist chamber materials. But when you listen to “Altadena In”, characterized by Lonberg-Holm’s use of effects altering his instrument’s tone and breathing rhythm, feeling like the silver ball of a pinball machine is the obvious consequence. We’re thrown everywhere, dizziness and pleasure going hand in hand as we acknowledge the throbs and the spikes. The instrumental duologue, in this place and elsewhere, suggests two incensed drivers attempting to push each other’s car off the road, then sharing a beer after calming down.

The vibe around here is positive as the CD keeps spinning. Perhaps the inherent humor connected to various parts of Life On Sandpaper is, after all, the winning card of this garrulous proposition, confirming Lonberg-Holm and Gjerstad as musicians who waste no time looking at themselves in the mirror of fatuousness.