Forms & Poses is Norwegian bass player Christian Meaas Svendsen’s second solo album, and features four compositions / improvisations which explore the physical connection between the human body and the double bass. Although recorded in two entirely different settings, it is clear that Svendsen’s mind-set on all these tracks are one and the same, and the release shines as a condensed representation of his creative diversity. The CD version comes with a 24-page long booklet with linear notes and pictures illustrating the physical relationship, all of which are to be found on the backside cover of the LP version.
"My first experience with Svendsen's work was his W/M debut split release with guitarist Christian Winther. Even though it was their first official release, both were well-established Norwegian artists who approached their respective instruments in ways that generated strange and unexpected sounds from them. Svendsen's newest work expands upon that, with four performances using only double bass, but played with a physicality and performance that blurs the lines between Svendsen himself and the instrument he plays.
The centerpiece of Forms & Poses happens to be the first song on the album, "Vita." At just shy of 20 minutes, this single composition comprises nearly half of the album. Looking at the title’s two possible interpretation: one being Latin for "life" and the other shorthand for an artist's collected works and experience, both apply perfectly. Beginning with deep, clean string sounds, Svendsen builds from a simple, yet rhythmic basis. The repeating bass rhythm he plays is expanded upon, emphasizing both the individual notes and the hard, percussive playing.
It is from this template of percussive bass (that sounds extremely similar to a full rhythm section) that he continues to work from. His rapid, repetitive playing builds tension, with variations on his approach creating sounds that resemble bass guitar, drums, and even synthesizers, though the only effects that seem to be here is a small amount of reverb. The piece hits a peak of intensity and then he begins to draw it back in. The performance never relents, but the sound becomes lighter and more melodic, transitioning to a subtle conclusion that makes for a perfect encapsulation of Svendsen's virtuoso playing and ear for strong compositions.
The three shorter pieces that follow feature him going in other directions with his playing, further demonstrating his ability and proficiency. "Aria Prefix M-" is largely built upon plucked, muted bass strings. At first the volume is rather light and the overall feel spacious, but he slowly increases the volume and intensity to the dynamics. By the end he is bending notes left and right, but still within the confines of a clear compositional structure.
"Forms & Poses" stands out distinctly with its overall more experimental and collage-sounding approach. The piece erratically stops and starts throughout, with bits of voice sneaking through. His playing is all over the place: the song was compiled from recordings of him playing with his hands, feet, body, and a more conventional bow, and so there is an intentionally jumpy feel to the piece. It finally closes in a wonderful rhythmic/melodic progression that is sadly too short.
The concluding "Chidori" features Svendsen in a different approach: here his playing stays largely in the higher registers at first, with abrasive scrapes that almost mimic a violin. The varying pitches and playing do not sound too significantly removed from a modular synthesizer piece, oddly enough. Eventually he brings the pitch down to a more conventional bass range, resulting a wonderful combination of low end drone and rapid fire weirdness before concluding the piece on a fitting chaotic note.
Forms & Poses may feature only a single instrument and a basic amount of processing and editing, but the most captivating moments are clearly the result of Svendsen's playing. The physicality he brings to the performance is where the album especially shines, and very few can manage to make a single instrument sound like such a diverse and varied ensemble. While I feel the slow burning, tension building moments of "Vita" are the definite standout, the remaining pieces as well are just as exceptional in showing the distinctly different styles in which he can play and perform, peerless in his composing and instrumental ability." - Creaig Dunton / Brainwashed