Boomkat Product Review:
Ellen Arkbro uses a rare renaissance organ to emulate a sort of slow, gauzy blues music in the gently compelling organ and brass of her debut album. Arguably one of the most striking, drone records of recent years, ‘For Organ and Brass’ is a must listen for brass obsessives, featuring Elena Kakaliagou on horn, Hilary Jeffery on Trombone and Robin Hayward on microtonal Tuba, following the aesthetic parameters of Arkbro’s exalted Just Intonation tutors, La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela and Jung Hee Choi.
Unfolding in two (three on the digital) meditative, durational parts written for 17th century organ, horn, trombone and microtonal tuba, Ellen’s debut puts her studies at the Royal College of Music in Sweden to enchanting use on the titular piece’s 20 minutes glacial movement, and to beautifully smudged, gauzy and intimate appeal recalling Arthur Russell’s ‘Tower Of Meaning’ in the shorter span of ‘Three’.
They were both recorded in St Stephanskirche in Tangermünde, Germany, which was specially sought out by Ellen for its Sherer-Orgel, a rare 1624 model with a specific kind of historical tuning known as meantone temperament, as Arkbro explains; “Hidden within the harmonic framework of the Renaissance organ are intervals and chords that bare a close resemblance to those found in the modalities of traditional blues music…The work can be thought of as a very slow and reduced blues music.”
While the religious links between 17th C Germany church music and early blues are historically implied, those unexpected aesthetic links become more explicit once you immerse yourself in ‘For Organ and Brass’. There’s a lingering, spectral link between the two, as though Ellen transmutes the blues into slowly intoxicating airs, firstly with a funereal pace and cadence, and then in a way that perhaps draws links to Arthur Russell’s earliest chamber-like arrangements.
Meditative, brilliant work.