Percussionist Terje Isungset is one of those Norwegian musicians who can make beguiling sound out of almost anything: oil rigs, wood, stone. Over the past decade, he has concentrated on instruments made of ice, sculpting and cutting drums, marimbas, chimes and other percussion instruments from one of the purest materials ? frozen water from ancient lakes. The only added elements are air and electricity: live vocals and expert amplification.
"This is not the easiest way to make music," he comments ruefully as he introduces the final pieces. Isungset is playing a series of nine concerts in a temporary geodesic dome beside Somerset House. It's cold, and the crowd has wrapped up warm, but it's nothing like the freezing temperatures in Geilo, where Isungset founded the world's first ice music festival.
As a consequence, his instruments are melting, and a crew member who brought the gear by refrigerator lorry from Norway is busy taking instruments on and off stage, returning them to their freezer boxes after each number.
Yet visual spectacle aside, Isungset makes fascinating music ? it's not the sound art or ambient abstraction you might expect. Pure-toned singer Lena Nymark adds wordless vocals: folky, pentatonic motifs on New Day and a longer, more chromatic line that reverberates across Isungset's four-note ice marimba riffs on Mellom Fjell, a tone poem about the awe felt surrounded by high mountains and deep water.
On the closing Global Ice, a Nobel prize ceremony commission, Isungset picks up the wonderfully odd-looking ice trumpet, and produces a roar that soars across looped and pre-recorded ice percussion ? an abrasive, primeval sound that's far from ice-clear, but magnificent in its madness.