Trachea, from the Norwegian choral group Schola Cantorum, seems like the latest “voices-in-a-church” release from 2L Recordings, something very much in line without other recent titles such as Venelita and Himmelborgen. A few minutes in, you’ll start to notice some fundamental differences. First of all, you’ll notice unusual accompaniment to these otherwise ethereal voices, something that leans heavily into the secular. Trachea, which obviously refers to the windpipe as a “source of transformation where the breath of a human being can be refined into the most beautiful, powerful, tender art,” is all about singing for the joy of it, the joy of making one monumental and moving sound.
These voices in a church, something Morten Lindberg of 2L captures better than almost anyone else, are indeed pure and mystical and gorgeously rendered, but Trachea is about the juxtapositions of these sounds against sometimes contradictory musical instruments–the violin in Bjorn Kare Odde‘s Snilla Patea, and the four sinister horns in Martin Odegaard’s title track, for example. These instruments are what leads the Schola Cantorum away from the inspirational hymns from those other releases, suggesting that there’s more to witness in the world–even from the warm, comforting space of a Norwegian church.
That’s not to say the Schola Cantorum is focused on the horizon beyond the grounds of the church. For every piece that’s devoted to earthy endeavors–Bjorn Morten Christophersen’s Oak and Mayfly, for instance, is based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale–there is something more fitting in the program such as Froy Aagre’s Gloria. Trachea is less concerned, however, with the source of the celebration of the human voice than with the sound itself, sweeping and exciting and impressive for anyone lucky enough to be in the vicinity at the time.
As usual, you can ignore the richer subtexts as you see fit so that you can enjoy that incredible, expansive presence of Schola Cantorum. If you’ve delved into the 2L catalog, you know that a big church with open beam ceiling made from timber results in the kind of musical experience that’s not often captured elsewhere. The mood in Trachea is sometimes less optimistic than with the releases that focus on the heavens, but that’s the thrill. A choir in a church is something that has persevered for many centuries because it is a source of transformation, and Trachea captures that perfectly.
[photos courtesy of 2L Recordings]