CD REVIEW: Erik Honoré - Heliographs

Erik Honoré - Heliographs
(HUBROCD2556 CD Review by Jonathan Carvell)

Erik Honoré has on appeared on over 50 records as either a performer or producer, and has collaborated with a diverse range of artists including Arve Henriksen, Brian Eno and Jan Bang. However, 2014 sees him release his first solo album - an extraordinarily well crafted piece of sonic art, born of an acute appreciation of sound itself.

Heliographs (literally ‘sun writing’) takes its name from an early 19th century technique for producing photographs. The title could not be more apposite as Honoré opens with an evocative, almost alchemical landscape in Navigators. This first track is almost completely without metre, and develops slowly with few immediately recognisable sounds: everything feels transfigured, rich and strange. Sidsel Endresen’s manipulated vocals are particularly striking, like ripples on a deep ocean. On a visceral level, and as an aural experience, Heliographs is instantly engaging.

This is an album of contrasts and sonic experiments. Halfway House is redolent of Anton Webern’s aphoristic work: as sparse and elusive as it is brief. Beside it sits Sanctuary, where simple metre, melody and accompaniment, and consonant harmony are established for the first time on the record. Pioneer Trail wouldn’t be out of place on an ambient electronica album, yet it’s juxtaposed with Jeffrey Bruinsma ’s violin improvisation and multi-tracking on Red Café – an almost entirely acoustic track, with minimal sample use. Last Chance Gas & Water sees Honoré at his most digital with a striking avant-garde style, reminiscent of the music produced at IRCAM. Heliographs’ darkest moment comes on Strife, which is genuinely affecting. The power of this track suggests that Honoré has established his own distinct musical language, and that this language has a unique and moving sonic syntax. Sanctuary Revisited is particularly beautiful and perhaps where Honoré’s diverse talents best combine – in a synthesis of electronic and analogue, again led by Endresen’s vocals.

Heliographs is unlike many contemporary jazz records, and to assign it to a particular genre is problematic. However, it shares the same values we find jazz: those of expression, beauty, and a story told through carefully chosen sonic moments. This is a rich and diverse album and a shining example of the range of musical possibilities open to us through the creative communion of improvisation.

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