From Iceland — Fusing Sounds

Fusing Sounds

Published September 8, 2023

Photo by
Art Bicnick

Ingibjörg Turchi’s Stropha breaks conventions

In 2020, Ingibjörg Elsa Turchi released her debut solo LP Meliae. In the wake of that wondrous catalogue of unassuming minimalist grooves, Ingibjörg has continued to investigate the capabilities of the bass guitar on her newest record, Stropha, out on September 1.

“There are so many possibilities [on the bass]. You can play chords, connect it to a pedal board, rock out. All kinds of things,” says Ingibjörg of her instrument of choice.

Having studied the flute, piano, guitar and even the accordion from an early age, it was during her time in indie-pop band Rökkurró that her affinity for the bass emerged.

There are so many possibilities on the bass.

“We swapped roles playing the bass and I tried it this one time,” Ingibjörg says of her origin story. “It became my preference. I was around 20 years old, but it’s never too late to start.”

Photo by Art Bicnick

You like jazz?

Despite primarily playing the bass, Ingibjörg should be perceived as a fully fledged musician and composer. Stropha is a testament to her musical abilities, not only demonstrating the various roles of the bass guitar, but her talents in musical composition.

I don’t exclusively approach music from a bassist perspective. I like playing melodies, ambience, or just some sounds.

Dabbling within the genre of jazz-fusion, Stropha visits all sorts of avenues within its scope. Sometimes, it sounds classically jazzy, like on the deeply groovy “Epta.” Other stretches of the record, like the finale “Anemos”, evoke minimalist-infused post-rock sounds.

“I think it’s a direct continuation of [Meliae]. To some extent, it’s slightly heavier,” comments Ingibjörg of the offering.

Beyond what could be described as a typical jazz-soundscape, where you have your saxophone and piano and a rhythm section, Stropha transcends categorisation. “There’s a variety of influences for the album: jazz and rock, minimalism and classical music,” Ingibjörg says.

Almost everything on the album is recorded live. “It’s just that kind of music. It’s good when everyone’s in the same space playing together,” Ingibjörg describes.

Thinking out of the bass-shaped box

Ingibjörg describes her previous record, Meliae, being borne out of a stricter writing regimen. When writing Stropha, she took on more free-flowing approach, allowing ideas to form out of conversations and motifs. “I would say that my compositions are very open. I perceive writing from a more general perspective, focusing initially on a basic chord structure and a melody,” Ingibjörg explains. “I don’t exclusively approach music from a bassist perspective. I like playing melodies, ambience, or just some sounds,” she continues.

Photo by Art Bicnick

It seems as if Stropha was deliberately written with an improvisational aspect in mind. Thinking out of the bass-shaped box seems to be the key to Ingibjörg’s interesting musical scenery. “I allow myself to do exactly what I want to do,” Ingibjörg confesses.

One aspect contributing to the unique sound is the addition of woodwinds to Ingibjörg’s band. Joining her established performing band, comprised of musicians Magnús Trygvason Eliassen, Magnús Jóhann Ragnarsson, Tumi Árnason and Hróðmar Sigurðsson, are woodwind players Sólveig Morávek, Björg Brjánsdóttir and Rósa Guðrún Sveinsdóttir.

“I added a bass flute, clarinet and a baritone saxophone to the ensemble as I had written some arrangements. It all sounded great,” Ingibjörg says of the addition. “Maybe my attraction to bass instruments is also the reason why I wrote the woodwind arrangements,” she says.

Playing both fields

In addition to her flourishing solo career, it’s fair to say that Ingibjörg is one of Iceland’s more popular bassists. Performing alongside Icelandic heavy-weights Emiliana Torrini, Bubbi Morthens, and Stuðmenn, her ambitions don’t stop her from doing her own thing, as Ingibjörg can even be found performing with the obscurest of acts. “I like doing a lot at the same time,” she starts. “Sometimes I get saturated with my music,” she says. “It’s so fun to play something by other people and be inspired.”

I have a hard time coming up with names for instrumental pieces, so I reach for a dictionary and find a word that’s beautiful.

Having confidence in her own work took some training, though. Ingibjörg started releasing her own material when she studied composition at the Iceland University of Arts. “I felt I wanted to expand on that line, and I had more courage to do so. I had a vision of what I wanted to create,” she explains. Her first solo creation, Wood/Work, was a seven-track record released in 2017.

Photo by Art Bicnick

“I made that record and found out that some people liked it. Of course, you always think of how things will be received by other people. But I’m not stuck in that kind of thinking. I try to do things by my conviction. Trusting the project. You need to develop that ability,” Ingibjörg says. As the years go by, it’s an ability Ingibjörg feels she’s getting better at. “I feel like I’ve managed to present what I wanted through music.”

While Stropha seems to be Meliae’s more mature older sibling, their titles are evocative of Ingibjörg’s love for the Greek language. “I studied ancient languages in secondary school and went on to finish two university degrees in Latin and Ancient Greek,” she explains. “I have a hard time coming up with names for instrumental pieces, so I sometimes reach for a dictionary and find a word that’s beautiful.”

Stropha, or strophe, is a poetic term referring to a part of a stanza in Ancient Greek tragedies. “Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not deeper than that,” Ingibjörg confesses.

Photo by Art Bicnick

A similar cover art connects the two albums, both designed by Klara Arnalds.

These days, Ingibjörg is looking forward to playing her material live. A release show has been organised for October 5. Not wanting to repeat the location to her previous release show in Harpa, Ingibjörg opted for the heavenly acoustics of Fríkirkjan. Stropha will be performed in its entirety, as well as a selection of works from Meliae. “People can expect improvisation, too,” Ingibjörg promises. “I like having open forms, so that not every concert will sound the same.”

Don’t miss Ingibjörg Turchi’s release show for her newest LP Stropha happening in Fríkirkjan, October 5. Ticket price is 3.900 ISK

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