Essential New Music: Krise’s “Svartsymra”

The name of Norwegian quartet Krise translates as “Crisis,” and the title of its debut LP, Svartsymra, could be rendered as “Black Spring Flower.” But while Krise’s moniker sounds dire, its music does not. This may be due in part to bandleader/composer Kristian Enkerud Lien’s focus on alternate tunings and, particularly, just intonation. His guitars and Anna Ueland’s synthesizer are both tuned using systems that generate a resonant shimmer around the sounded notes.

Rather like the work of Arnold Dreyblatt (who famously created his own tuning system), Krise’s sonic radiance imparts an uplifting spirit, which is picked up and enhanced by Bjørn André Syverinsen’s parsimoniously propulsive drumming and Emil Bø’s agile trombone. On “Nekrotek,” synth tones that refract prism-split light rays illuminate a near-martial groove and brass fanfare, while unfamiliar tonalities give “161182038” a lightheaded feeling. Even when the tempo flags, as on opener “Diapuls/Fluxus,” the novel harmonies soften the downbeat vibes.

The music’s emotional complexity is complemented by Lien’s apparent preference to treat the tunings as means, not ends. He may hook you in with a tune or put you on notice as it fragments and reconstitutes, but his music always feels like it wants to take the listener somewhere. [Sonic Transmissions]

—Bill Meyer