on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2018 12 Sep

Arve Henriksen – The Height of the Reeds

von: Brian Whistler Filed under: Blog | TB | 2 Comments



Arve Henriksen’s new release, The Height of the Reeds is a soundtrack for the mind and heart, cinematic in scope and like much of his work, evocative of dramatic natural landscapes, although the mental images of frozen tundras spreading out to the horizon, or endless dunes fading away into infinity, seem to originate in another dimension.

I took the journey while exploring the new Jenner Headlands on the Sonoma Coast coast. Jenner, a small, charming village with a population of 135, sits right on the mouth of the Russian River, and is one of the most beautiful spots on the California Coast. Stopping off for a coffee at the local Cafe Aquatica, I sat and watched for seals while I fueled up on the poor man’s Prozac, then made my way north to the just opened 6300 acre preserve. Slipping on my trusty Audeze isine 20s and chewing on a microdose of a gummy infused with THC, (oh the joys of legalized cannabis,) I went up the Sea to Sky trail, which soars high above the coast.  With its dramatic rocks and ocean views, it turned out to be the perfect place to experience this music. 

The Heights of the Reeds is a work of great mystery. Conceived around the idea of combining the recordings of found sounds on a bridge with improvisation and composed orchestral passages, the project is open and evocative, which ultimately transcends a specific locale and time.  At times, its brooding aural edifices bring to mind the score for a yet to made sci fi film. With Henriksen‘s plangent trumpet, Eivind Aarset’s atmospheric guitar, Jan Bang’s deep sound design and Jez Riley French’s eerie field recordings (which have been known to include the crackling recorded sounds of  electronic devices,) the listener is immersed in a sonic landscape that is at times ecstatic, transcendent even – at other times so inhuman and otherworldly as to feel bleak, dangerous and yes, vaguely threatening – programmatic music from an alien world. 

As on other recordings, most notably A Place of Worship,  live symphonic orchestra is integrated into the music to create expansive, neoclassical textures. Still at other times there are simple bass clarinet-like drones or French horn sections mixed with foreboding rumbling that made me look around for a hidden nemesis. Then suddenly, out of the dark, malignant mist emerges a triumphant choir of angels – perhaps all will be well after all – perhaps better than well – we are once again swept up in the quiet ecstasy of Communion with the Holy (Or was that the cannabis kicking in?) Then out of a fog of angels, that signature fragile solo Henriksen choirboy voice enters, now with the full orchestra accenting the spaces between phrases. But what are those guttural, gurgling, earthy sounds creeping into my consciousness? Perhaps even the ecstatic can be a dangerous place. Unexpectedly, it morphs into exquisitely ambient music for Debussy lovers, a boys choir rocking back and forth over a pedal point. But it only lasts for a moment, and once again, we’re back in the land of abstract guitars, ambiguous harmonies and always, space and silence. 

I have been exploring Henriksen’s work for some time now, and this new album looks to become one my very favorites. He keeps on expanding his musical palette, refining and growing. On this album it all comes together in a coherent whole. The Height of the Reeds is a mature work in a logical artistic progression of one of the finest artists in a genre which is hard to define. Is it ambient, ambient jazz, electronica, neoclassical? It is all of the above and none of them. Henriksen incorporates elements of all of these to build gossamer castles of ice, sand and clouds that slowly appear and then melt away before your ears.  


This entry was posted on Mittwoch, 12. September 2018 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    No doubt, such a great piece of music. Love it.

    And onee of the greatest Engksh music journalists ever (and nuch more), in short words:

    Probably my favourite listening of the year so far: ‘The Height of the Reeds’, the sound installation for the Humber Bridge by Arve Henriksen, Jan Bang, Eivind Aarset, Jez Riley French & Opera North. Released by ⁦@runegrammofon⁩ this week. Extraordinarily beautiful.

    Richard Williams (UK)

    Jenner seems to be a fine place :)

  2. Michael Engelbrecht:

    In case anyone didn‘t watch this yet …

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