We are told that Ingar Zach’s latest is significant for two reasons. After exploring a variety of percussion instruments and developing a unique personal style, Floating Layer Cake is described in its notes as the “culmination of his percussion practice.” The album also marks a new beginning. For the first time, the 47-year-old Norwegian has applied this practice to a composition written for an ensemble.
It is not the first time he’s worked with others. Zach is a member of three bands: Dans les Arbres, Huntsville and MURAL. He’s also a frequent collaborator with other artists.
Just the same, Floating Layer Cake is a new chapter. Its two pieces are heavier than the album’s title suggests.
“The Lost Ones” was originally written for percussion and voice. But after working with poet/vocalist Caroline Bergvall, guitarist Kim Myhr and the Quatuor Bozzini string quartet on Myhr’s Pressing Clouds, Passing Crowds, Zach saw the potential for something on a larger scale.
The Canadian string quartet figures prominently in the piece. Myhr’s guitar plays off the strings beautifully, adding a gently decorative touch. Bergvall’s spoken-word section is brief, but makes an outsized contribution. Even as we focus on all of that though, Zach’s percussion is absorbing. The work is so involved that it’s difficult to imagine it on any other scale.
“Let the Snare Speak” is a more difficult listen. “The piece is for three snares with vibrating speakers and pre-recorded electronics,” according to the album’s notes. “Different sine tones are played through the speakers, which generate a flurry of distortions and harmonic filtering from the surface of the drum skin.”
Originally written for the Australian group Speak Percussion, this version is a solo performance by Zach. Given the nature of its composition, it is a less emotional work. It is nonetheless a pure expression of artistic experimentation; one deserving of an open-minded reception.