States of Minds
Release date: September 14, 2018
Release concert: September 22, 2018 at Ultima Festival, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvik
Kjetil Møster: saxophone, clarinet, electronics, percussion, drums on D4
Hans Magnus Ryan: guitar, electronics
Jørgen Træen: modular synthesizer, lap steel guitar
Nikolai Hængsle: electric bass, electronics
Kenneth Kapstad: drums
Recorded 29.10–2.11 2016 and 9.5–12.5 2017 in Duper Studio, Bergen Kjøtt, by Jørgen Træen
Mixed 12.9–20.9 2017, 26.2–2.3 2018 in Grotten, Bergen Kjøtt by Jørgen Træen
Mastered by Jørgen Træen
Supported by the Municipality of Bergen and Fond For Utøvende Kunstnere
Photo: Aslak Gurholt / Design: Yokoland
(p) & (c) Grappa Musikkforlag AS 2018 www.hubromusic.com email@example.com
All trademarks and logos are protected. All rights of the producer and of the owner of the work reproduced reserved. Unauthorized copying, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcasting of this record prohibited.
A1 Brainwave Entrainment (20:11) (Møster/Ryan/Træen/Hængsle/Kapstad)
B1 Unhorsed by Chivalry (09:36) (Møster/Ryan)
B2 Plate Sized Eyes (01:04) (Ryan/Træen)
B3 Mystère (03:33) (Møster)
B4 Bow Shock (05:04) (Ryan/Hængsle/Kapstad)
C1 Life Wobble (22:22) (Møster/Ryan/Træen/Hængsle/Kapstad)
D1 Phantom Bandotron (06:06) (Møster)
D2 Sounds Like a Planet (05:30) (Møster/Ryan/Hængsle/Kapstad)
D3 Mon Plaisir (05:09) (Møster/Ryan)
D4 What a Flop Waking Up (03:55) (Møster/Ryan/Træen/Hængsle/Kapstad)
The creative process that resulted in the Møster! release States of Minds began as a five-day studio recording session at Duper Studio in Bergen, in which we explored ways of making music together that were new to the group. Previous workflows were usually initiated by musical sketches and tunes provided by me and brought to the band to further develop until finding a final form. The band members always contributed generously by coloring the music with their personal playing styles and experiences. So far, this had resulted in three album releases and many concerts. But after our third release in 2015, I struggled to figure out where to take the music further. I felt stuck in habitual work methods in which I "impose[d] forms internal to the mind upon a material world."1, which I also suspect caused some self-imposed pressure to continuously come up with new ideas for the band to play. Something had to destabilize to set a new course, and in doing so, I wanted to involve the band members more deeply from the very beginning of the creative process.
The recording sessions leading to States of Minds experimented with free improvisation as a means for collaborative composition. I thought of this as a way to include all band members' musical singularities in the band's sound, and I did not know of other ways to extract those potentials. Letting go of control and structure and embark on such an aimless wandering was both risky and uncomfortable. Still, our years of collaboration made me confident that we would end up with something; it was just not clear yet what it would be. Or, to follow one of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies: “Once the search has begun, something will be found”2
Jørgen Træen was operating as a studio engineer, producer, and modular synth player. He was aware of the free, unintentional approach we were applying. His position on the outside enabled him to observe the process and affect it when he saw it necessary, which he did. For instance, his modular Moog system is what entrains and calibrates us during the opening minutes of the first track, Brainwave Entrainment. Also, during the extended buildup through the last ten minutes of the same track, the consistency of his modular synth interlocking with Nikolai's improvised bass line played an important role as the improvisation played out. It is safe to say that Jørgen's contributions were crucial to the direction the band evolved during those sessions and that those contributions continue to affect the band's development also when he is not playing or working with us. As such, he expands the function of a music producer deeply into the genetics of the band. His broad knowledge of musical performance, historical references, musical-compositional parameters, and technical expertise makes him able to have a birds-eye perspective from which he can confront and conduct, and manage to tease out the inherent potential of the group as a whole.
States of Minds was recorded during two work periods separated by six months. In between, we were commissioned to compose and play a concert for the Vossa Jazz Festival in April 2017. Here we could try out an expanded version of the band which also included Ståle Storløkken on Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes and synth; Helge Norbakken on percussion; and Jørgen Træen on modular synthesizer. This concert was based mainly on preconceived material composed for the occasion by me. The concert turned out fine, but its rhythmic density and continuous high-octane dynamic level contrasted the spacy, dwelling nature of many of the pieces from the recording session five months prior. We had planned to record the Vossa Jazz material a month later with the quartet version of the band, but despite many attempts to record it, only one of the songs (B3) made it to the album. Instead, in this second recording session, we further explored the collective improvisations, which gave more promising results. In the end, we were left with close to eight hours of material.
The free explorative process had positive consequences for the band as it expanded our detail in texture and timbre and generated more varied compositional forms. The process itself became productive, as if free improvisation was a mode of inquiry, and the response was States of Minds. Unforeseen music emerged from all of us, music that I would not be able to compose in advance. In a conversation towards the end of a recent rehearsal- and recording session, bassist Nikolai Hængsle acknowledged this notion when stating that "maybe this approach made us come up with things we did not know about ourselves? Previously, we imagined how the music was supposed to sound and tried to accomplish those expectations."3 Guitarist Hans Magnus Ryan followed up: "it is more demanding to enter such a free process compared to those where everything is preconceived, which is more about coloring by numbers. The free approach makes the interplay develop over time. You cannot expect magic to happen every hour in the studio, so one has to find little things and their connections here and there, like Can used to work in the studio, with Holger Czukay being observant enough to start the tape recorder when interesting things were happening."4
The German experimental rock group Can is an essential inspiration to our compositional techniques by their extensive use of improvisation and postproduction editing to create music. Tago Mago (United Artists, 1971) is one such example, where bassist and producer Holger Czukay would reorganize song structures out of extensive jam sessions. The track The Future Leaks Out from our album When You Cut Into The Present (Hubro, 2015) is made using coarse cut-ups and layered samples of ourselves. This is a way of composing in the studio that we further explored on both albums included as part of this artistic PhD result. In that respect, producer Teo Macero's pioneering use of tape editing and sound processing tools as part of a compositional postproduction process is an additional source of inspiration. His work on Miles Davis' Bitches Brew (Colombia, 1970) was approached with a similar method: “The reels of tape rolled, the music was captured as raw material, cut and spliced into an album.”5
While recording States of Minds, I had the opportunity to explore the saxophone's role. The sound processing tools facilitate a path outside of the more traditional soloistic endeavors commonly associated with the instrument. The saxophone reveals itself more and more as an instrument that can inhabit a vast array of possible positions within a wide range of musical textures. I am not alone in exploring this, as pointed out in the introduction. The use of electronics to explore an expanded understanding of the saxophone's roles steers the focus towards timbral and textural parameters. As discussed elsewhere, the piezo microphone, effect pedals, and tube amplifier help me connect to the sonic qualities of the other instruments in electrically amplified ensembles. Additionally, it is crucial that the electronics can be played saxophonistically; that the electronics respond to saxophone-idiomatic efforts because the saxophone is what I can operate intuitively. There has to be a level of correspondence between the saxophone's vibrations and the electric currents. When the physical aspects of saxophone playing set the electronic tools in motion, such possible roles emerge. On States of Minds, I explore these roles on all the tracks that I play on except the one tune from Vossa Jazz (B3). E.g., in the opening of Brainwave Entrainment the saxophone's harshly reverberated and distorted sound relates to the bass as the improvised counterpoint unfolds. Unhorsed by Chivalry is set off by a delayed, ring-modulated sax first played with my wedding ring hitting the saxophone's body to set the tempo, before gradually being played with a slap-tongue technique, which again morphs into more conventional staccato playing, until the more traditional soloing starts along with the chord progressions. Mon Plaisir has an orchestra of shimmering reverberated clarinets, and on Sounds Like a Planet, the phaser-distorted sax panned to the right acts as some Martian signal instrument. These are some examples to show how the electrified sax can take on different roles and relate to the other instruments in the ensemble in new ways. Melodies, rhythms, and textures emerge as amalgams between instruments and performers, similar to the way classical composers work with timbre in orchestration.
As a result of these role explorations, the album contains relatively few saxophone solos in the traditional sense. My improvisational approach tends toward exploring other positions within the soundscape that blends in rather than foreground, and the electronics help me find more such positions. It might not always be possible to identify exactly what the saxophone contributes due to sound processing. The ambiguity established by not knowing who plays what makes a tool I find interesting to explore further, as it helps to liberate the instrument from characterizations and connotational bonds. It pushes me to make less obvious musical choices, and I hope it leads the listener to an open-mindedness towards the music and the instrument.
The majority of States of Minds was made through exploring an inverted process compared to previous releases. Previously, I would arrive at rehearsals with the vast majority of the tunes done in advance, and the recording studio functioned more as a tool to achieve the final product. Now, the compositional work was done in hindsight, which opened for a more reflective approach. Listening through all the recorded material and composing States of Minds out of those materials gave a thorough look into the band's potential and made the foundation for the work with the succeeding album, Dust Breathing.