For Karta, the augmented trio of trumpeter Markus Stockhausen (son of modern-classical master Karlheinz), bassist Arild Andersen, drummer Patrice Heral and special-guest guitarist Terje Rypdal convened in an Oslo, Norway, studio with themes and songs that Stockhausen and Andersen had written. Nearly all of the tunes, though, were discarded once the group started improvising, creating spontaneous compositions that they believe surpassed the readied material. Despite the lack of postproduction trickery on Karta, the group achieves an ambient-electronica vibe by running their instruments through effects and gadgets of all sorts. Stockhausen uses a harmonizer, echo, reverb and wah-wah pedal; Andersen and Heral use samplers and delays; and Rypdal's six-string tone has long been one of the most heavily treated in music, taking it as far away from that dark, dull and muddy sound that has forever defined jazz guitar.
It's hard to focus on any particular track on Karta; it tends to wash over you like a nice, hot, lulling shower. The tracks are mostly collections of evocative timbres ("Sezopen"), gentle improvisation ("Flower of Now"), ringing percussion ("Wood and Naphta") and pastoral effects "(Invocation"). The most distinct track is the stunning closer, "Lighthouse," which features Anderson's kalimbalike ostinato pattern anchoring Stockhausen's gorgeous, classically minded melodies, Rypdal's waves of sound and Heral's shimmering percussion.
Stockhausen's playing doesn't sound anything like Miles Davis'-Markus is classically trained, and his precise intonation, forceful attack and strong tone are the inverse of Miles' singular strained sound-the effects of Davis' early '70s, dark-ambient improvs, like "He Loved Him Madly" from Get Up With It, run throughout Karta. The moody, muted-trumpet track "Legacy" is even dedicated to the Prince of Darkness. But what comes around goes around: After all, it was Papa Stockhausen who helped influence Davis to try such genre-expanding sonic risks in the first place.