AMN Reviews: Mike Olson – Six Projects (2015; Innova Recordings)

917_coverMinneapolis-based Mike Olson is a composer and producer who has developed his own rather unique style and sound in an evolutionary and organic manner. At first blush, his recent release, Six Projects, seems to plant him in an as yet unnamed category – musicians utilizing a combination of space / ambient music and modern electroacoustic composition and improvisation. Others who might be placed in a similar musical geography include Sound Awakener and Robert Scott Thompson.

But any attempt to classify Olson is an exercise in futility. While the first two of his “projects” on this release, Flute Clouds and Noopiming, do harken to the works of Klaus Schulze, Brian Eno, Steve Roach, and Robert Rich, they also incorporate snippets and samples of actual instrumentation. These micro-recordings, however, seem to be heavily manipulated into each piece as a whole. For example, in the 20-minute Noopiming, overlapping vocal shards slowly build into a dense wall-like texture, then dissipate into a looming atmosphere. Rather than composing with notes, Olson seems to be using samples as his atomic elements.

Other tracks take on a tribal-ambient approach with emphasis on complex patterns of percussion with background drones. What They’re Doing approaches being a modern chamber-orchestra piece, with squealing sax and manipulated spoken word over vibes, strings, and drums.  Implied Movement combines sequencers with metal percussion and undulating waves of sound.

Another aspect of Six Projects that makes it an ultimately rewarding listening experience is Olson’s clever use of dynamics. Parts of these recordings are barely audible, or make use of a frequency range outside of the expected. This results in, at least in my experience, hearing the album anew when piped through powerful speakers instead of a computer or headphones.

Regardless, it takes a while to get your head around what Olson is doing here, but doing so is time well spent.


2015 Angel City Jazz Festival

American Jazz musician and composer Mat Maneri.

The lineup from the LA-based festival is now available.

Saturday, September 26
8:00PM Lisa Mezzacappa’s Glorious Ravage
9:30PM Mark Dresser Quintet

Thursday, October 1
@Blue Whale
9:00PM Lucian Ban & Mat Maneri
10:00PM Empty Cage Quartet

Friday, October 2
@The Ann & Jerry Moss Theatre at The Herb Alpert Educational Village
8:00PM The Yosvany Terry / Baptiste Trotignon Ancestral Memories Quartet

Saturday, October 3
@Barnsdall Art Park – Gallery Theatre
8:00PM Motoko Honda & Vanessa Anh Vo
9:30PM Jen Shyu & Jade Tongue with Ambrose Akinmusire & Mat Maneri

Friday, October 9
@The Edye at the Broad Stage
8:00PM Jon Armstrong Presents ‘Burnt Hibiscus’
9:00PM Josh Johnson – UNREST : Confronting Collective Memory

Saturday, October 10
@Musicians Institute Theater
9:00PM John Beasley’s MONK’estra
8:00PM The Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Performance Ensemble at UCLA

Sunday, October 11
@Plaza Del Sol Concert Hall at The Valley Performing Arts Center
7:30PM Alex Cline’s Flower Garland Orchestra