Fjordne (given name, Shunichiro Fujimoto) produces music that is adventurous, expansive and a bit other-worldly, yet highly listenable and absorbing. His approach is to feature the piano as the melodic centerpiece and have electronic sounds create various moods around it. The effects change from track to track, but are sometimes wistful, other times nostalgic and occasionally mysterious.
This is not Fjordne's first recording, having made four previously, and this is his second for the Kitchen label. The label is known for high-end art productions. The limited-run CD normally comes in a 7-inch cover with specially produced accompanying materials, including a short story by the composer, program and artwork. None of this came with the review copy and so we will focus on the music rather than the printed product.
The inspiration for this work comes from Charles Dickens' novel "Great Expectations," from which his short story derives, and the tracks are a series of vignettes that evoke a sense of wonder, loss and decadence. Presumably, the Charles of the title refers to Dickens. Much of the beauty of the album comes from Fjordne's remarkable piano melodies that continue unabated throughout, although they change with more nostalgic sounds in earlier tracks, swinging, groove-based playing in the middle and greater dissonance towards the end. The last track brings us back to a mood evoking the earliest ones. Influenced by pianists such as Bobo Stenson and Paul Bley, one can hear some elements of free jazz and European third stream in Fjordne's playing.
The electronic sounds add or run counter to the mood of the piano and vary from percussion, to strings, to vocals to ambient sounds. In some cases, they offer a countermelody, giving the impression of an Ivesian polytonality or the feeling that one is listening to two pieces of music coming from different rooms. The effect is both startling and quite lovely. The vocal pieces, such as in "Gathering" and "hope," sound like cabaret music from another country, world-weary and regretful. With "forfeiture" Fjordne starts to get his groove on and while the rhythm is never fast, it is always insistent, forcing an intensity to the piece. "hope" is anything but hopeful and the listener is not disappointed to hear a female voice break in with a sad, childlike refrain, followed by a swirling chaos of fragmented melody and ambient sounds. "Ald square" continues the mood, replacing the vocals with saxophone and seeming like a fever dream. A beautiful melody slowly breaks apart in "Ebenze" before coming back to a resolution, while "antidotal" does nearly the opposite, beginning with a set of fragments that dissolve into a melody, that is then joined by an distant, dissonant chorus.
Fjordne clearly has a unique vision for his work and I would certainly like to hear more. The print run for the physical edition of this CD is 700 copies, but the music is also available in digital format.