Published on December 8th, 2006 | by Hans Fruck


Inga Liljestrom & Co — Quiet Music for Quiet People

(Vitamin Records)

Quiet Music for Quiet People reminds you of just why most music is written, rewritten, rehearsed, and then rehearsed again. Billed as a “completely improvised recording project put together by esteemed vocalist/composer Inga Liljestrom”, Quiet Music was recorded live to tape in a small Sydney studio with a group of musicians who had never played together, and it shows.

Improvisation can be inspiring and liberating for artists, plunging them into the unknown without safety lines, and giving rise to the unexpected and original. Other times, abandoning the discipline of meticulously crafting a song with a recognisable rhythm, melody or trajectory introduces flabby self-indulgence.

And so it is with Quiet Music. Too much of this record is tuneless, rhythmless doodling. Often there’s no discernible correlation between vocals and music, and between one passage of music and the next. Consequently, there’s no sense of narrative or trajectory to any of the pieces, no sense of a beginning, a middle, and an end – just a blankly incidental patchwork of music.

The manifesto of Liljestrom and her collaborators when recording Quiet Music was to create a “desert-inspired music that conjures the atmosphere of the desert at night in summer – starry clear skies, heat and sweat, and romantic pining, wanting”. Unfortunately, Liljestrom’s vocals (tuneless moans strung across galaxies of reverb) and the record’s sparse, spacious grab-bag of cello, glockenspiel, piano, lap steel, double bass, samples, and “found sound” conjures nothing but tedium and the artists’ own unfulfilled aspirations.

Recording improvised music is, without doubt, a brave move. But in this case it doesn’t pay off. Quiet Music is a “composition” that needed far, far more composing.

–Hans Fruck

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