Sidsel Endresen & Bugge Wesseltoft: Duplex Ride
The duo is often a format of interplay; this one more than most. She sings; he mans a massive bed of keyboards. The adventure goes further: some of these pieces are free improvisations, including the words. There are few precendents for this: Stevie Wonder ad-libbed the words to “Fingertips”, but the words didn’t make it a hit. Dubs and echo are used often, making him an orchestra and her a choir. It could be overdone but it isn’t: they have a great pallette of moods, and Sidsel is an angel or a sophisticate as the setting requires. It is an unusual sound, and many times it isn’t really jazz. But it is worth hearing.
It opens quietly, with Sidsel in church. The tune is called “Singles:; the words appear to be English, but echo makes them hard to understand. No matter: the voice is high and pure, with the feeling of a hymn (the echo makes it more churchy.) Wesseltoft comes in at midpoint; he chords bitterly, at odds with Sidsel – slowly getting gentler with the quiet beauty she displays. This melts directly to “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”; Bugge opens with the “Django” theme. Sidsel’s accent is charming as she intones the kiss-off words with tender sincerity. His comping has a classical tone to it, making this trifle sound like a real song. The chorus still sounds cheesy, but I suspect it always will.
“And Later, the Rain” is the first original. Wesseltoft slowly taps a drum: a tom-tom, I think. Above this Sidsel, with almost no accent, delivers blank verse, devoid of emotion and possibly meaning. “Being of no consequence, and sleeping with one hand across her shoulder, and dreaming of rain...” She then turns owl, hooting softly as Bugge plays some prepared piano, full of buzzes and clicks. This becomes a vocal sample of Sidsel, looped to sound like a synthesizer drone. On top of this she sings of sadness and the loss of relationship. (“Your magic coat is torn and worn so thin/ Now anybody’s eyes can look right in.”) Wesseltoft muses with classical tones and lovely simplicity; it sounds like the New Age pianist Wim Mertens. Gene McDaniels’ “River” gets undulating electric piano, and Sidsel gets delay echo at times (it’s annoying but used sparingly.) In the background you hear her soft sighs; up top she makes percussive whoops, The production is nice, but I think the ! song is too long.
“Duplex Ride” is fun; in a British accent she recites a procession of London streets and neighborhoods, ending with Waterloo. This also has synthesizer rumbles, Yoko screams, and ‘70s electric piano. Hear the sung opening, as Sidsel dismisses the trip and her guide with great disdain.
“Six Minutes or So” is an aural picture: Sidsel makes engine noises with her mouth; Wesseltoft from the background makes soft bangs an clangs. Like other tracks, the running time outlasts the idea. The factory gets louder, and is finally revealed as the low notes of a piano. “Trying Times” is sung in a wordly voice, and Wesseltoft rings the bluesy electric. The voice is cool, the words are hot: “It’s like the whole dams world is getting out of hand.” This is a very good song, with the simple approach putting the words into focus. “Pennywhistle Poem” is a wordless vocal, backed by the slam of a prepared piano and some light synth. Like “Six Minutes”, this could be shorter. “Okay” is a simple message of “never give up”; Sidsel’s plain reading makes it work. An ironic voice would have crushed this song, but Sidsel embraces it, and it ends the disc nicely.
Many of the experiments don’t work, but the simple things do. The gentle voice is splendid, and Wesseltoft gets many sounds from his keys. When it clicks – as it does often – the result is magic.