Ediacara by Hilde Marie Holsen is an immersive suite of three related movements, each titled after a geological epoch from up to half a billion years ago, with everything composed, performed and produced by Holsen herself.
in real time, all the sounds - both acoustic and
electronically processed - derive from the various resources
of Holsen’s trumpet. What might appear to be a glass
harmonica’s drone, the wash of strings, a sepulchral chorale
or - most disconcertingly - the skittering, snuffling rhythms
of a truffle-hunting pig, turn out to be made by nothing more
than breath and brass.
"As always, it's live improvisations with trumpet and the live processing of it’, says Holsen, who was born in Jølster, in the west of Norway. “No sounds are pre-recorded and there are no overdubs afterwards, so everything happens in the moment”.
Following ‘Ask’, her debut from 2015, and its successor, ‘Lazuli’, from 2018 (both released on the Hubro label), the new album - mixed by Stian Westerhus and mastered by Helge Sten - represents both a refinement and an expansion of her practice so far. By sampling and then repurposing her instrument's full repertoire of potential noises, whether blown or percussive, Ediacara summons up a sonic symphony whose weight and density can recall the “organised sound" of Edgard Varese or the pioneering musique concrete of Pierre Henry. And when she does play the trumpet like a trumpet, her pure-toned, long-held notes are as plangent, and as powerfully expressive, as any hot-shot co-instrumentalist you can think of.
The result is typically stark yet sensual, with harsh percussive patterns giving way to meditative, airy drones and then altering again as the focus shifts, as it were, from close up detail to the long view, or vice versa. Each of the three movements casts its own spell, and although the totality is intensely varied, there is a satisfying continuity. Everything seems to be in a constant state of flux, forever changing and becoming, with no end-view in sight, only more ceaseless development. As if echoing a kind of gradual evolution whose glacial rate of change is seen in time-lapse, whole epochs of sound can seem to fly past in a minute.
"The titles represent different geological time periods - Ediacaran, Cambrian, Ordovician - that followed each other, and they relate to how different organisms appear and die out with changes in climate and different continents forming and breaking apart”, says Holsen. “It’s an inspiring image of how my sounds are created and transformed, yet it also feels relevant for the time we live in now: the Cambrian era overlapped to the Ordovician era with warmer and warmer temperatures, leading the sea levels to rise and the period was characterised by an extremely hot global climate. The cover art, made by Kristine Knapstad, is an image of a fossil.”
As with Holsen's previous album, ‘Lazuli’, which took inspiration from the minerals used to create the pigments of a painter's palette, this geological perspective provides both a conceptual framework for urgent environmental concerns, and an apt metaphor for the relentless evolution of her sound-making methodology. Ediacara's thematic integrity and hard-won sonic grace confirm Hilde Marie Holsen as one of the principal new voices in contemporary music, from Norway or anywhere else.