Henrik Eiben, Studio Autumn 2023
Art and music can often go hand in hand, and it is no coincidence that many of Bartha_contemporary’s artists share a deep involvement with music. Hadi Tabatabai once described the process of making art as ‘an excuse to listen to music all day long.’ Clay Ketter’s first studio in southern Sweden included a recording studio on its upper floors. To this day, he regularly performs as a drummer and lead vocalist in his band. Frank Gerritz's connection to the Punk Rock scene in Hamburg is legendary, and the arrival of the Norwegian band AHA undoubtedly outdid Mike Meiré’s student band - the list of tales and stories can go on and on…
Henrik Eiben's involvement with music goes beyond merely listening, as his late stepfather left him and his siblings one of Europe's largest and most influential vinyl collections. In this spirit, the artist’s deep engagement with music only naturally extends to his work in the studio.
Our show ‘Leap Before You Look’ presents five works by Henrik Eiben in a carefully orchestrated, almost retrospective overview of his practice. In this vein, we asked Henrik about five of his favourite albums. Rather than compiling a list of songs, we reflected on the similarities between an album and an exhibition, where each work or song relates, contrasts and contributes to an overall picture of the artist's oeuvre. The following list honours the album as a form of artistic expression - there is no order of priority; just enjoy the music!
Henrik Eiben describes how the sound of Chet Baker’s trumpet resonates against the studio walls as he pushes to finish the latest works. Henrik continues to be fascinated by Chet’s music; for him, the trumpet conveys the sensibility of a singer, where each note is not simply a sound but a tone caressed and moulded like a singer's vocal cords. On this album, the ensemble sets the atmospheric space in which the sound of the trumpet fills an allegorical space unlike any other.
As we move from trumpet to saxophone, Eiben remarks that Coltrane and his band would play themselves into almost transcendental states, displaying a willingness to search and create something extraordinary void of any commercial concern. This state of creative performance for the performance’s sake is akin to much of visual artists' processes, where ideas evolve and get questioned, reworked and improved before creating works that eventually leave the studio space. Jazz often reflects this largely intuitive process and probably describes the familiarity of the thinking that informs its creation and the approach of visual artists alike.
As the album title suggests, Ornette Coleman entered the realm of experimentation, pushing the boundaries of standard pieces to the breaking point; this Jazz album was conceived with notions wanting to describe a possible future for a genre. ‘The Shape of Jazz to Come’ is a playful approach to what could easily be an almost overwhelming question - What’s Next? So, too, the artist enters the studio and asks what the future has to offer and what shape the following work will take.
Returning to calmer waters, this ground-breaking record by one of the greatest Jazz pianists of all time and his trio is another favourite of Henrik Eiben. The record is laden with a romantic sensibility yet contradicted by a progressive interpretation of traditional pieces that came to expand the repertoire and influence Jazz musicians to this day. In simplistic terms, Evans, like Eiben, looks at the past and reinvents it in his own fashion, not a persiflage but rather a continuation with new means. Both artists reveal a wide range of facets that went largely unnoticed in the past.
This highly anticipated album promises to be a riot. The multi-instrumentalist brings a fresh take to Hip Hop, drawing heavily on recent music underpinned by autobiographical and witty lyrics. Eiben is interested in the intensity of the artist’s approach: Ren cleverly interweaves dark subject matter with a bouquet of musical influences that should collide but somehow are crafted to create entirely unique Hip Hop records that slowly reveal layers of complexity. Eiben also appreciates the way in which Ren managed to build a large fanbase, utilising an entirely new and independent way to engage with his audience.