Hilde Marie Holsen ‘transforms the simply beautiful into the sublime‘ on Ask, says Ian Maleney
Ask is the debut album from Norwegian trumpeter Hilde Marie Holsen. Operating in a world not too dissimilar from the more local Sean Mac Erlaine, her recordings consist of improvised performances of trumpet and live electronic processing of that same trumpet.
At just five tracks, Ask feels like a short album. Though it is certainly concise, it unfolds slowly – growing from rattles and breaths through to beautiful melody at an assured, unhurried pace. Throughout the long build of ‘plagioklas’, what begins as low, looming sounds gradually becomes more complex, reaching upward until three melodic lines twist around each other, one trumpet companioned by two thin, electronic sounds, like toy keyboards enjoined in something sacred. It’s a strangely epic movement, always lifting upwards but its pacing, its mixture of confidence and vulnerability, makes it seem not forced but rather warmly surprising.
“muskovitt’ comes as a short break between two much longer tracks, but it contains a microcosmic version of the album as a whole. It’s gentle in a way, maintaining that low drone that pervades so much of the record, but the trumpet feels like it has a reserve it can draw on whenever needed, like it’s testing its own power against self-inflicted restraints. It breaks up at the edges, never allowed to resolve into any kind of serenity.
It’s this to-and-fro between the unease often latent in the electronic manipulation of Holsen’s instrument, a sort of uncanny echoing effect that sees the original sounds reappear as ghostly distortions and lingering distentions, and the beautifully golden peal of the instrument’s direct hits that defines the album. It reaches its peak on the final track, ‘ask’. Here the gloriously cool sound of the trumpet, suspended over a shifting sea of glitches, hums, buzzes and echoes, seems to ride those waves joyously. It feels so free, it’s almost effervescent in places. There’s always this undercurrent of melancholy, but it’s the kind which makes joy, clarity, happiness all the sweeter for its presence, which transforms the simply beautiful into the sublime.