Fantastic review of Olga Konkova/Jens Thoresen – December Songs from Adam Baruch, Israel
Olga Konkova / Jens Thoresen – “December Songs”
This is the debut album by the Norwegian duo comprising of pianist Olga Konkova and guitarist Jens Thoresen. As the title suggest they perform a set of eleven Christmas songs, some very well known and others less so.
I usually approach Christmas albums with extreme caution, if at all, as the sad reality is that most of them are extreme kitsch, to say the least. However, this time I decided to keep an open mind (just kidding, I always keep an open mind) and I’m happy to say that I don’t regret it.
Konkova and Thoresen are both experienced and highly sensitive musicians, as evident from their previous recordings, and their treatment of this “traditional” material is beautifully innovative and highly unusual, which of course changes the perspective by which this album must be looked upon. A wonderful mixture of tradition and modernism is the key element, superbly performed by the duo and creating a deeply moving sound experience. As every great duo performance, the telepathic conversations / communications between the two musicians are staggering, and sound-wise they sound like a one multi-voiced instrument.
The acoustic sound of the piano and the electric sound of the guitar bled together perfectly thanks to the amazing recording quality which this album offers. The music was recorded by Thoresen in his own studio and the result is truly spectacular. The arrangements of the music takes it very far away from the source, often transforming it completely, making them unrecognizable, at least to the less experienced listener. Nevertheless even in their new embodiment the music manages to preserve the spirit of the original tunes, which again is pretty extraordinary.
I don’t know if this is as much a compliment as it is intended, but this album sounds nothing like any other Christmas album I have ever heard, and in many respects is only spiritually / aesthetically connected to the Christmas spirit, rather than explicitly so. As such, it is a fully valid piece of music that stands on its own right.
There is so much beauty, elegance and inner tranquility in this music, that it is perfectly suitable for every human spiritual Holiday, regardless of the specific religious context. Achieving such universal appeal can only be done by wholeheartedly dedicated musicians, as those present on this album.
Overall this is a gem of an album, a piece of condensed spiritual experience, which transcends time and location and acts directly on the human heart.