»Tableau« is Rolf Hansen's second full-length album under his given name and acts as a sequel to his solo debut »Elektrisk Guitar«, released in 2019 through Karaoke Kalk. On the 14 new pieces, the Copenhagen-based composer and musician further explores the sonic possibilities of the electric guitar by opting for a radically different approach and putting great limitations on himself as a performer. »Tableau« is an experimental record in the truest sense of the word, eschewing conventional modes of playing the instrument and instead turning the guitar into a sound source for compositions that are at once abstract and concrete.
Already on his last album, Hansen had found a different approach to playing and composing, but this time went even further and created a set-up in which the electric guitar becomes a different instrument altogether. This is also expressed in its title: a tableau is, broadly understood, an image-forming momentary bodily pause in a dramaturgical or narrative process. In the context of the album, tableau is the form and sound that emerge when the musician’s usual approach to playing and the compositional practice is halted and transformed. To achieve this, the guitar is placed on a table with microphones installed around it and tuned in a static microtonal modality thanks to wooden replacement frets that have been inserted under the strings. This alters how the sounds are being generated with the instrument, which is now played from above, occasionally strummed or stroked with a tool.
The opener »Begyndelse« already sets the tone by punctuating dense layers of sound with a one-note melody that provides a rough rhythmic structure and harmonic anchor for the track that still seems to mutate wildly the further it progresses. Even in moments in which Hansen opts for a more directly accessible approach like on the following »Over Grænsen« or »Tid«, the pieces’ emotional qualities are greatly amplified by their sonic idiosyncrasies. This is best exemplified by the first track on the second side of the LP, »Højre hånd«. Using high microphone gain to magnify the high-frequency acoustic sounds of the electric guitar, Hansen captured a rich near-symphonic changing spectrum of overtones. This is typical for the attention to detail put into the overall record whose approach maximises the music’s affective impact by focusing on minute nuances.
»Tableau« is full of moments marked by almost unnoticeable shifts and changes, offering a wealth of sounds that are as evocative as they come unexpectedly. Despite their aesthetic differences, the kinship between its predecessor »Elektrisk Guitar« and these 14 compositions is undeniable. Both are based on self-imposed constraints, a radical form of reduction that made it possible for Hansen to broaden his sonic palette and compositional approach. Though mostly short, concise, and abstract-sounding, the pieces on »Tableau« speak a clear, varied and simple language.