P Jørgensen‘s latest effort represents a shift in sound from the Danish composer. We’ve grown to expect an ambient blend of electronics from the artist, but here we encounter organic instrumentation, resembling a small orchestra. Whether this is the sign of a new maturity or the natural outgrowth of the composer’s recent film contributions, Gold Beach is a masterful effort that makes a lasting impact.
One of those film scores was Kim, a commissioned work for a World War II documentary. Gold Beach appears influenced by that work, as it adopts the code name for a D-Day landing. The music suggests the forlorn spaces of a battlefield after the fight has ended. The listener can imagine a soldier trudging through the mud, searching for lost comrades. The rain falls slowly, overflowing broken gutters. Transport vehicles make their way through the ruts. A child sings.
Bass clarinet, double bass, saxophone and violin all make appearances, but on Side A, the biggest impact is made by the distant sound of a crying baby. The fate of the world seems to rely on whether or not this child can be comforted. Is the mother lost? Is the child simply sitting in the rain? There’s no way to tell. And the rain becomes a torrent.
During the final minutes of the first side, the instruments huddle together against the cold, reassuring each other with their presence. The rain fades for a time. The baby is lulled. But by the second side, the skies have once again opened. Is there no hope to be found on these distant sands? Note by note, the song turns into an elegy, filling the spaces like water in wet footprints. As long as someone is left to provide an elegy, there is reason to hope. The sound of conversation is overlaid with that of mortars (battle) or fireworks (victory) ~ the interpretation is left to the listener.
The clarinetist begins to take audible breaths. There is life here, albeit life in struggle. A bird circles and calls overhead. The players march again to the middle of the battlefield, lifting their instruments, determined to make music in the aftermath of chaos. Sullen electronics gurgle at the edges of the mix. Perhaps P Jørgensen hasn’t changed completely after all. But he’s changed enough to make us listen with new ears, and we like – and respect – what we’re hearing. (Richard Allen)