Review: Silent Fires - Forests

A while ago I received a very nice message from the pianist, composer, bandleader, producer and educator Alessandro Sgobbio (IT), announcing his new release “Forests” with his Oslo (NOR) based quartet called “Silent Fires”.

Alessandro is a Master of Music since his graduation at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, he has released 10 albums as a leader, co-leader, composer, pianist and producer and he tours regularly Europe, China and the United States.

His recent project with “Silent Fires” has been released by AMP Music & Records in December 2019 and is a collective exploration around the theme Spirituality in its multiple meanings.

Alessandro Sgobbio: “During this two-year compositional process, I've received many precious advices by composer and pianist Misha Alperin, with whom I had the opportunity and the honor to study at the Academy“.

With Karoline Wallace (vocals), Hilde Marie Holson (trumpet + effects), Håkon Aase (violin) and Alessandro Sgobbio (piano + compositions) this band reunites four young emerging talents from the European Improvised Music scene. They describe their sound as a “cross-genre intermixture of lyrics and acoustic-electronic fragments – merged into written and improvised soundscapes”.

Silent Fires. From the left to right: Håkon Aase, Hilde Marie Holsen, Karoline Wallace and Alessandro Sgobbio. Picture Copyright by Jeff Sales.

Alessandro Sgobbio: “The band-sound is closely related to the lyrics (in various forms inspired by the theme of spirituality). For the first time, I have also written some original texts“.

On stage “Silent Fires” perform and improvise with contemporary dancer Synne Garvik.

Alessandro Sgobbio: “My primary idea was to write a new repertoire around the theme of spirituality - a sort of collection of 'contemporary prayers' which could hopefully suggest spaces of meditation.
The composition process focused mainly on creating essential and repeated melodic units - counterbalanced by compositions with more structured arrangements. Each score rarely exceeds the single page, almost as if it suggests a direct immersion into sound and music“.

“Forests” is an album with 11 songs on 41 minutes and 3 seconds to let the listener enter a new fascinating sound universe. My first contact with this album I realized a huge connection with the for myself very familiar sound of ECM Records, since the 70s created by Norwegian sound engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug in the Rainbow Studio in Oslo, as a team with producer Manfred Eicher.

This feeling of space I hear on “Forests” is so enormously, the transparency of the recorded sound and music is just very much relaxing as also ongoing inspiring.

Spoken words, whispered words, words connected with melodies, sounds created by acoustic instruments plus beautifully selected electronic effects are the ingredients here. These eleven sound explorations contain lyrics of poets such as Maya Angelou, William Butler Yeats, Alessandro Sgobbio, René Guénon and the Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians.

One really special and fascinating atmosphere on this album is space. Wherever I listen, wherever I put my attention, there is always space, almost infinite in its quality. Which generates at least for me another amazing ingredient which is Silence. Both the Space and the Silence do offer me the gift to become one with what Alessandro mentioned earlier: “a space for meditation”. When Sound as on this album especially has such a huge quality, to open the listeners inner space and power of imagination, then of course I need to mention this.

With this music you do not only listen, you see! These poetic jewelry is highly warm, transparent, sensitive and works as a huge opener to any inner portal, any inner resonating chamber with clarity. For me as the listener this is a quality I highly appreciate! This is cinema for ears and souls!

And you become never tired, there is no rush for anything. The invitation is to stay. These images are never too much, they please with space, time, silence and beautiful options for endless inner exploration.

Thank you dear Alessandro Sgobbio and “Silent Fires” for this huge gift!

Copyright of this image by Alexander Semenov.

Cover image by Alexander Semenov.

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