AMN Reviews: Tellef Øgrim – What Is It [SIMLAS010]

The title of this release of solo music for acoustic guitar poses a question, and one that turns out to be more complex than it first appears. On the face of it, what it is is a single instrument, but the farther-reaching answer guitarist Tellef Øgrim gives in his program note is, “a means to connect.” Øgrim, a Norwegian who often plays fretless guitars, sees the apparent simplicity of the lone, unaugmented acoustic instrument as in fact harboring a complex richness of expression and sound that can communicate in as unmediated a way as is possible with an attentive listener.

For this recording, an EP-length collection of eight brief pieces, Øgrim used two guitars with subtly different voices. One, a Martin he acquired after it apparently was abandoned while being repaired, has a deeply resonant voice; the second, a smaller guitar of obscure origins, has a less ringing sound. It’s probably the latter guitar that opens the recording with a gentle, though slightly dissonant, chord sequence pivoting on minor seconds; the agitated, staccato piece that follows has a ringing sound that most likely is the Martin’s. With these as with each of the other pieces, Øgrim keeps focused on a single stylistic trope. These range from the folk-like melodies and arpreggios of P.O. through the rock rhythms and chords of Bestum Plesvark, to the free chromaticism of Horse. It’s a well-recorded set that succeeds in offering challenging substance in an intimate atmosphere.

Daniel Barbiero