Album of the week: Bugge Wesseltoft and Prins Thomas

Like two celestial bodies under the auspices of Newton’s law, Bugge Wesseltoft and Prins Thomas find each other in this new collaborative LP. Neither artist is a stranger to traversing the borders between music and both have found new audiences roaming through unlikely corners of the musical cosmos.

Bugge Wesseltoft, a denizen of the Norwegian Jazz world is no stranger to Prins Thomas’ DJ and electronic musical universe. He’s collaborated with Laurent Garnier and Henrik Schwarz in the past, and during the days of Skansen he would often play live amongst DJ sets. Prins Thomas’ knowledge of music is a lexicon in itself; the DJ and producer boasts a record collection that could be contained in a small library and in his productions he channels it all through that idiosyncratic sound he has cultivated across five LPs, his collaborations with Lindstrøm and his most recent krautrock-adjacent album with Bjørn Torske. 

It is strange that Bugge and Thomas have never collaborated before, as both artists are quite significant figures in the Oslo world of music and their paths have most certainly crossed in past. So this is a most welcome collusion between two bastions of the Norwegian musical milieu and the results don’t disappoint. 

Evanescent sonic extemporisations gyrate into the firmament in something like an extraterrestrial event through “Furuberget”, the opening track of their LP. In a tentative and gentle display, fleeting musical  improvised moments swirl around an empty space for the first 6 minutes before a regular rhythmic phrase provides the anchor they needed to develop alongside each other, creating an extensive thematic arc that negotiates the length of the track and establishes the entire feel of the album.

Recorded at Rainbow studios in Oslo, where the a bulk of the ECM catalogue was recorded, Bugge and Thomas funnel the traditions of sets improvised there through this LP. Incorporating the help of the legendary Jon Christensen on the drums, they nod to history of ECM, but in a new kind of fusion they keep their eye on the future. Dub style mixing techniques, weave looping electronic figures through cascading piano and percussive ad-libs that underpin the bulk of “Bar Asfalt” “Furuberget” and “Epilog”. 

On “Sin Tempo” the sonorities of Wesseltoft’s piano prevail in a eloquent piano concerto while “Norte do Brasil” sees the majestic Moog synth and lo-fi electro-samba rhythms conspire in a playful musical interlude on the album. 

It is however on the three longer pieces mentioned before, where the sense of a collaboration is strongest, and especially on “Bar Asfalt” where it conspires in something completely unique. It tantalises with its melding of afro rhythms, off-kilter drum kit, Wesseltoft’s piano and a immoveable bass-line provided by Prins Thomas, I presume. Here Prins Thomas and Bugge Wesseltoft particularly invoke that spirit of innovation and experimentation of Jazz musicians in the 70’s. Between the regular pulse of the rhythm and the melodic eccentricities there’s something I’ve certainly never heard before. 

It’s merely the centrepiece however, and it shouldn’t distract from how good the rest of the album is. Between the extensive layers of context, concept and execution, this album makes a significant contribution that will certainly mark a point of reference in contemporary music going forward.

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