Our ability to share large files of data with collaborators around the world electronically is still a relatively recent development. The practice has become central to many musicians’ process. The opportunity to partner with like-minded artists around the world from the comfort of a home studio has given us countless recordings that would have otherwise never been produced.
Count Mats Eilertsen’s Reveries and Revelations among those recordings that illustrate the power of Dropbox. The Norwegian’s “sort of solo album” features contributions from Geir Sundstøl (guitar, national guitar and banjo on “Nightride” and “Hardanger”), Eivind Aarset (guitar on “Endless”), Per Oddvar Johansen (snare drum on “Appreciate”), Thomas Strønen (drums, percussion and electronics on “Signal,” “Venus” and “Siberian Sorrow”) and Arve Henriksen (trumpet on “Appreciate”). Eilertsen performs double bass, electric bass, acoustic bass guitar, guitar, harmonium and keyboard.
It is the kind of accomplished ensemble that would require a seasoned logistics professional to pull together in person. Thankfully Eilertsen went a different way.
“I just sent them my files and asked them to add what they would like to, from their respective home studios,” he says in the album’s notes. “With the drumming of Thomas Strønen, it was the other way round. I asked him to send me some files he had stored on his computer. Then I chose ones I liked and started to cut them and move them around and add them to tracks I already had. So none of the musicians on the album actually played together.”
Process aside, these 10 pieces occupy that lovely place between jazz, ambient and minimalism. Perhaps because the artists involved were each focused on specific contributions, the album moves from one sublime moment to the next.
“I wanted to do something that came out of the bass itself,” writes Eilertsen. “Whereas normally I would record a lot of tracks and see what I had in the end … this one is produced, cut, edited and layered from the beginning. … It’s me fooling around in a way I haven’t done myself before, and also playing organ, some guitar and additional stuff. Then I imagined some musicians that I would like to have adding their own touch to it.”
This playfulness with the material that Eilertsen describes is never self-indulgent. Despite its avant-garde oriented instrumentation, the album is entirely accessible. Its simple beauty is inviting; its detail, thrilling.
The fact that these artists made their contributions from different locations is a non-issue. The connections between each are clearly unaffected by distance. Would it be a different record if they’d shared studio space? Probably. But that’s not to say it would (or for that matter could) be any better than this.