Alvaret Ensemble: Skeylja

Intense post-rock improvisation from this Anglo-Dutch alliance.

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After their 2012 debut, this UK/Netherlands ensemble collaborated with a collection of Icelandic musicians and artists for a series of special concerts. These amounted to over 10 hours worth of music, now scrupulously edited down to just 40 minutes. There’s none of the hit-or-miss elements normally associated with improvisation. Instead the results sound considered and sculptural, coherence and concise.

Tiny details, fleeting connections and echoed happenstance receive as much prominence as the larger, more gestural aspects of the shows from which this remarkable album is culled.

Kira Kira’s near-whispered vocals cast silvery flashes through the otherwise inky darkness, her words merging with mournful, drifting trumpet. Greg Haines’ gently inquisitive piano creates an Arvo Pärt-like air of contemplation and reverence, contained within a sacred ambience as if made in candlelit spaces with vaulted stone ceilings.

They corral random, disparate sounds into tremulous clouds, building in structure, frequently with a seething density, and resolving into luminous transcendent coda that burn with a wondrous force. This is music as mystical revelation.

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.