Over the last decade, the Norwegian Hubro label has been steadily building a reputation for glossily produced releases with a hint of ECM’s meticulous approach to sound, boasting a roster of young artists with aesthetics touching on jazz, improv, folk and beyond – and this Sunday afternoon triple-bill in an intimate basement in Soho very neatly summarises the label’s output. First up, Erlend Apneseth plays nine-stringed Hardanger fiddle, leading his regular trio, with Stephan Meidell on acoustic guitar and electronics and Øyvind Hegg-Lunde at the drums, through a gauzy miasma of delicate semi-improvised themes that draw on Norway’s folk tradition. Apneseth is a virtuoso, coaxing both lachrymose lyricism and ringing, sitar-like drones from the Hardanger, while Meidell employs a subtle but wide-ranging arsenal of techniques and treatments on the guitar that help build an utterly beguiling, somewhat magical sound.
Hegg-Lunde stays behind the kit for the next trio, Building Instrument, with Åsmund Weltzien playing synth and Mari Kvein Brunvoll singing and adding electronics and zither. Again, the folk element is prominent – with Brunvoll’s high, clear voice sounding like a message from antiquity – but it’s all presented through the lens of 21st century post-genre experimentation: trundling loop-grooves built out of the accumulation of bells, harpsichord-like synth and drowsy vocal refrains that sound like pop music from some imaginary mountain Shangri-La.
Closing the show is Bushman’s Revenge – with Stephan Meidell doing a remarkable job of filling in for regular bass guitarist Rune Nergaard, incapacitated by a broken arm. A recent signing to Hubro, the trio have honed their jazz-rock chops on several albums for the Rune Grammofon label and present an accomplished take on heavy modal jams, as if Hendrix had sat in with Alice Coltrane. Drummer Gard Nilssen is a powerhouse, spinning out fat fills and mighty cymbal crash, while electric guitarist Even Helte Hermansen unleashes scorching licks. It’s a fine finale to a first-class showcase.