Not long after I got my copy of The Island (Safe as Milk), the debut album by Norwegian guitarist Lars Myrvoll, I loaded it into a CD alarm clock--I can only wake up to Morning Edition for so long. I left it in there for a long time because it was such a nice, haunting thing to be awakened by. Months later I still don't know much about Myrvoll, except that he's mainly an improviser and that he's worked with, among others, David Stackenas, Axel Dörner, and Rafael Toral.
Myrvoll recorded the music on The Island mostly in his bedroom between 2002 and 2008, and there's a wonderful duskiness to it, rife with ambient noise--except for some of his overdubs, these 12 pieces are decidedly murky. A few superb Norwegian musicians--Klaus Ellerhausen Holm of Ballrogg on flute, Martin Taxt on tuba, Ole Henrik Moe on violin and viola--make subtle contributions to augment Myrvoll's haunting, minimal guitar playing, which somehow combines folk, Morton Feldman-style minimalism, and post-Derek Bailey tangles into a unified, gorgeous whole.
There's also no missing the influence of Loren Mazzacane Connors. Though Myrvoll's playing doesn't have any of Connors's note-bending bluesiness, his repetitive figures have a rich atmosphere, ringing with unusual harmonies, single-note runs, and leisurely arpeggios. Like Connors's best work, the pieces unfold slowly, but there's a greater structural focus; multitracking allows Myrvoll to fit together intricate, miniature little licks and note clusters in puzzlelike assemblages. Some of the pieces sound like they were recorded on tape that got wrinkled somewhere between the session and the final pressing, but the occasional dropouts and gnarled tones only cast the exquisite beauty into sharper relief. This is homemade music in the best possible sense.
I'm pretty sure the CD has no U.S. distribution, but it is available for download on emusic.com.
As I write I'm in a hotel room in Bergen, Norway, where I've traveled to check out the NattJazz Festival. I really don't know how such a small country can keep producing so much great and varied music, but every time I visit I discover new things. Hopefully I'll post again with news of some fresh finds.