Sometimes liner notes makes all the difference when listening to an album. They often go ignored or are not even present (especially in this brave new digital world) and reviewers usually don’t mention them. I can’t remember a time when I have felt the need to mention them either, but these notes in particular from “Living Rooms” compelled me:
”...The solo pieces opening each CD are from the first concert I did after a five year long pause from music due to work and parenthood.” -- Christian Munthe
This sentence reverberated in me because I recently became a father and I have taken a (permanent?) hiatus from music making and maybe even music. I am now able to see more meaning in these recordings than if I had not read the notes. Some of the music has transformed from mere improv to something I am living right now. As a whole, that means that there is more of a connection to the artist than before. Which in turn manifests itself as a deeper and better listening experience. So why do I bring this up? Because I feel that artists often miss the point of liner notes and that the distillation of albums into individual 99-cent tracks have also obliterated the tradition. Here’s hoping that others can follow the example set here.
Which then brings me to this review and the overall effect the notes have had on it. I am not a large fan of improvisation (not to be confused with jazz improvisation). Often I find the sounds chaotic and rooted in “obscure art.” This time it was different because I could hear the creativity and the sound of a re-emergence (or something close to it). I am not going to claim that this album has sold me on the genre. But, I can claim that I am seeing it in a whole new light. In between the chaos there is emotion and creativity (which is the root of good music). I don’t think this would have happened if I had not read the notes. They simply set the mood and gave me a point of reference. Which can be very important in a genre that usually offers no guideposts or the comforts of a concrete form.
Notes aside, this disc mostly represents Christian Munthe exploring the guitar and bringing out new musical possibilities. His guitar playing often reminds me of picking and at other times his sound is simply his own. Nothing is static too long and the sounds build upon themselves into mysterious patterns that beckon you to follow. But the music isn’t all solo introspection. Several of the tracks bring in other players who compliment what Christian is doing. These tracks offer a change in instruments (some of which are unexpected) and an expansion of the emotions being channeled.
However, I am still lost in the din of the sonics of these discs. Sometimes the lack of music (or at least how I perceive it) is too jarring. Instead of listening to the CD I end up staring at my speakers trying to understand the noise. In short, it is a good listen but it isn’t for everybody. So I am recommending this album to people who are looking for introspective experimental/improvisational guitar that don’t mind veering off into the undefined. 7/10 -- Daniel De Los Santos (25 August, 2010)