Bugge Wesseltoft's Kings Place residency began with a night celebrating 20 years of his Jazzland Recordings featuring two of the label's flagship acts.
Formed in 2010, Isabel Sörling's Farvel is one of the label's more recent signings and has been winning awards across Scandinavia, but this was its first visit to the UK. The sextet opened with 'Mörka Hav' (Dark Sea), in which a persistent bass and piano tremolo was punctuated by drifting, pulseless melodies, depicting the claustrophobic sensation of drowning in insomnia. Sörling's voice soared above the texture, showcasing her extensive range and facility with different techniques and electronic effects. Sometimes breaking into pop-tinged tones redolent of Susanne Sundfør, elsewhere Sörling would probe the extremes of her range to serve the wider contemporary textures of the group. 'Rök', the title track of Farvel's 2015 album, translates as smoke, but Sörling uses the word to create a metaphor for the physical sensations of anxiety. Over a quietly insistent ostinato, Sörling shared unison melodies with Otis Sandsjö on tenor and trumpeter Kim Aksnes, their lines twisting and turning – one moment angular and dissonant, the next leaping higher and brightening. Despite Alfred Lorinius losing the E string of his bass halfway through the set (with no replacement in the building), Farvel maintained a compelling exploration of their distinct and unpredictable sonic world.
After the interval came singer Beate S. Lech – more commonly known as Beady Belle – accompanied by Wesseltoft on piano, Christian Meaas Svendsen (bass) and Gregory Hutchinson (drums). One of Wesseltoft's earliest Jazzland signings, Lech certainly demonstrated the vocal firepower at her disposal, but the set never really took off. 'Marbles' and 'Castle' felt harmonically and rhythmically unadventurous, and too often the lyrics of 'On My Own' strayed into cliché. By contrast, 'Ghosts' – Beade Belle's first single back in 2001– still sounded fresh, with the catchy central hook and drum'n'bass groove imaginatively transformed in the hands of the trio.
– Jon Carvell
– Tim Dickeson