It seems that just about every Norwegian artist on the Rune Grammofon label is part of at least three or more different groups, and Thomas Strønen is no exception. In addition to being the founder of the group Food, he has also played with groups Parish and the Maria Kannegaard Trio. Last year, he teamed up with Supersilent keyboardist Ståle Storløkken and released the excellent Humcrush album. Pohlitz is his debut album, though, and on the release he steps far outside the normal boundaries of what you would consider from a percussionist, creating a varied album of music performed and processed in real time.
The album opens with "Heterogeneous Substances," and although the track is based around watery-sounding, repeating percussive patterns, the instrumentation is melodic and active, calling to mind the infinite guitar work of Michael Brook (who released a couple great albums on 4AD almost 10 years ago). "Ingenious Pursuits" follows, and sounds influenced more by Indonesian percussive music touched on and expanded upon with digital processing. Chimes and tones ring out and repeat in dancing patterns, but are bent and swayed, punctuated by impossibly low hits and skipping and stuttering blips that move the track out of the organic realm.
The next couple tracks both follow in similar paths, exploring slightly different spaces both rhythmically and texturally. Strønen has an amazing ear for keeping the listener engaged, and even though the tracks sound like they're using the same source sounds, he manages to keep things varied enough to draw you in (especially in the more sparse moments of the excellent "Dispatches," where the track fades to near-silence in places before being punctuated by rips and weird filter-blasts). From there, he takes things down a notch, with both "E...qulibrium" and "Mutti" exploring ultra-minimal repeated chime motifs, with the latter shearing off about halfway through into a deep, murky improv space.
Because the release is all done in real time, it's not a disc that overpowers you with multiple layers of sound. Instead, Pohlitz works that fine line where one musician attempts to wring everything they can out of a single instrument (and some clever and timely processing). At under forty minutes, the disc is just short enough that it doesn't overstay its welcome, although it does slightly repeat itself a bit in terms of overall sound. I would have loved for Strønen to revisit some of the themes of the first track, but he never quite does, and although the release touches on everything from traditional gamelan music to the minimal work of Steve Reich, it never quite reaches the transcendent work of the best of either of those. That said, it's still a fine release from a talented young artist, and if any of the previous sounds intriguing, this will probably sound quite nice to you.