Label: Thrill Jockey
Format: LP, Coloured
Ellen Arkbro and Johan Graden embody the limitless curiosity and fearless innovation of the Swedish and Berlin new music scenes they inhabit. Arkbro is a composer and musician whose work has been presented around the globe at prestigious institutions such as the Barbican in London, GRM in Paris and the Kölner Philharmonie in Köln. Graden is one of Sweden’s most sought-after pianists, moving freely between classical music and the European contemporary jazz scene. Currently living in Amman Jordan, he is an active member of the Jordanian experimental pop scene. Following their collaboration on the acclaimed for organ and brass released on Subtext, new album I get along without you very well expands on the duo's intoxicating exploration of meditative, spiritual sonics in unexpected ways. It is a beautiful meeting of two friends and inventive musical minds, resulting in the most affecting and surprising of pop albums.
From its opening notes, I get along without you very well delights in subtle tensions and contradictions. While no song lasts more than a few minutes, the album feels distinctly unhurried, its atmospheric textures and sparse rhythms seemingly distorting the flow of time. The duo’s arrangements conceal an incredible amount of compositional detail paired with a distinctive sonic pallet, of brass, woodwinds, upright bass and synthesizer. Timbres in a similar register create an incredible depth of sound while paradoxically giving the impression of sparseness with individual instruments blending with one another seamlessly. Arkbro’s ephemeral vocals, entirely absent from her solo works, provide a perfect counterpoint to the album’s rumbling low-end, magnifying the intimacy and vulnerability of the music. On the opening track, described by Arkbro as “the most naked song on the record”, the composer’s breathy vocals curl in ribbons around murky brass, as delicate blue vapors evaporate, underpinned by featherlight percussion. On “All in bloom,” Arkbro duets beautifully with delicate piano figures in one of the record’s most fragile moments. “Love you, bye”’ has rippling organ harmonies, recorded at St Jacobs Kyrka in Stockholm, that lend the piece a reverential, yearning quality.
The sonic framework for the album resulted from extended improvising and recording as much as from late night conversations about philosophy and creative practice. Arkbro explains: “throughout the process, we spent as much time talking about the music as working on it, exploring our ways of thinking and being.” Graden elaborates: “At times we’ve had no choice but to wait, sometimes for months at a time without touching it. The fact that we’ve taken all this time to create something together and been patient with it (and each other) has been essential to this album and has shaped the music in a way that could never have been thought out or planned in advance.” Graden responded in kind, “This music and the process of making it, in many ways felt like a return to an early source of inspiration. I remember the feeling while sitting by the piano as a kid, very carefully listening to chords - how would it sound if I do this, add this, remove that…I love that space. Being able to share that process with someone is a rare gift.”
I get along without you very well is a daring statement from two of the most progressive voices in contemporary music. In allowing themselves to be at their most vulnerable - with each other, their collaborators and with listeners - they have created some of their most powerful work to date.