It’s not very often that I partake in reviewing what could be traditionally described as ‘ ambient’ music. The word ambient should really be used to describe a texture, or a musical motif. I’m happy to disclaim that the latest album from award winning Danish producer, composer, film composer and pianist Jens B. Christiansen (aka Rumpistol) ‘ Isola’ is nothing short of a compositional masterpiece. His 7th solo album sits in a beautiful space between the imaginative realm of film, to the improvisational grandeur of jazz, to the emotionally evocative soundtrack of our hearts. There’s a story to ‘Isola’, meaning ‘Island’ in Latin . It’s a story of that space that occupies our most imaginative selves. Musically, I will ascertain that it’s a film soundtrack waiting to be heard, although I could be wrong. Whatever it is, ‘Isola’ is a thing of beauty.
With industry plaudits including Gilles Peterson and musical comparisons to composers such as Nils Frahm and Max Richter, Jens B. Christiansen is known for bringing the cinematic to anything he creates. ‘Isola’ is therefore characteristically mediative and cinematic in sound; it’s organic blend of exquisite musical guests is what truly gives this album a unique voice. Expanding on the quartet line-up of his critically acclaimed 2020 release After The Flood (2020), Isola adds two leading musicians from Denmark’s vibrant jazz scene to the mix: Kalaha’s Emil de Waal on hyhb and Jonathan Bremer of Bremer/McCoy on upright bass. The pair add a jazz-infused edge to a project which has evolved alongside Christiansen’s own career; emerging 20 years ago as a well-respected solo artist and electronic music creator, Isola evidently showcases a composer that floats majestically in between an array of merging instruments, styles and individual musician personalities in his music.
Of his own album, Christiansen says : “Isola is the latin name for ‘island’ which shares the language stem with the word ‘isolation’“ he explains. “It not only refers to the state that the world has been in the last few years, it also refers to the basic conditions of every human being and a newfound need for grounding and a reconnection with nature.” I’m not surprised, seeing that most of the albums we’ve heard as of late draw on these themes: a need for connection by any means necessary. That is to say, is no human an island?
To differ from my usual approach of outlining each track individually, I find that I can only do the album justice by reviewing it as a whole. Each track feels like a story on to it’s own, often surprising me with vocals so ethereal they make Howard Shore’s musical scores look pale in comparison. The instrumentation of guest musicians gives the album the musical space it needs to meander between each genre . For instance, the variety of types of artists featured on this splendor of an island ranges from the likes of Ukulele master Tobias Elof working his magic throughout, to the breathtaking vocals of soprano Nina Smidth-Brewer , the latter quite literally breathing life into an otherwise heavily- laden instrumental orchestration. Rumpistol is no stranger to fusing styles, so he carries on with Jullie Hjetland guesting on Slumre Sløjfer (Lullaby Loops ). I can’t help but hear a similarity to the classical -crossover Danish group The Danish String Quartet in compositional aesthetics. It’s a thing of wonder really, listening to a cinematic album that references one’s cultural heritage in the simplest yet most effective way. Throughout the entire album, you can hear Christiansen himself, whose credits alongside piano include guitar, synths, bird sounds, accordion, wurlitzer, mellotron & vocals.
Rumpistol has forever changed my mind about fearing the word ‘ambient’; he’s redefined it, given it a human quality, and has drawn me into a world where one voyages to an ‘Isola’ of wonton delight.
In any case, the construc
Such is the organic approach to the music that the additional guest appearances – of which there are several – come from all over the musical spectrum.
Ukulele master Tobias Elof adds his magic, whilst classical vocalist Nina Smidth-Brewer breathes life into three tracks. Folk singer Jullie Hjetland sings on Slumre Sløjfer (Lullaby Loops) while the ghost of pop singer Kill J can be found on the closing track.
Not to mention Christiansen himself, whose credits alongside piano include guitar, synths, bird sounds, accordion, wurlitzer, mellotron & vocals…
In essence, Rumpistol brings together the many facets of a career which includes the band Kalaha, computer games, dance, theatre and film scores into a sound that brilliantly defies easy classification.