The veteran Norwegian vocalist Sidsel Endresen and the imaginative young guitarist Stian Westerhus have only made one album together—their bracing 2011 collaboration, Didymoi Dreams (Rune Grammofon)—but it already seems to be exerting an influence on the country’s improvised music scene. The upstart label Va Fongool recently released the eponymous debut by an Oslo duo called the Jist, another voice-and-guitar project that channels extended technique and crazy effects into rigorous, abstract excursions across the realms of noise and texture.
Guitarist Torgeir Hovden Standal has clearly studied the manic pedal-hopping soundscapes Westerhus has developed over the years, where he transforms single washes of sound into horrible knotted blasts, ominous shadowy drones, or prickly damped tones. Likewise, singer Natalie Sandtorv has absorbed the radically original improvisational approach of Endresen—a singer who once made records for ECM in the mode of late Joni Mitchell, then pushed through to develop a richly rewarding but challenging sound that breaks language down to its most consonant, rhythmic building blocks: “windlike sibilances, choked consonants, clacks and clicks made with the tongue and lips, and an encyclopedia of glottal skitters,” as I wrote a couple of years ago. Both members of the Jist are in their early 20s, so I’m willing to give them a pass for “flattering” Westerhus and Endresen so much. Yet at the same time, even if the music isn’t entirely original at this point, there’s no missing their skill, they rapport they share, and a certain fearlessness. The album is not an easy listen, but it’s worth your time—I’m pretty certain you haven’t heard much quite like it. Below you can check out one of the most abrasive selections, “The Jist of Being in Between Jobs.”