Time Is A Blind Guide

Thomas Strønen

Time Is A Blind Guide is both the title of Thomas Strønen’s album and the name of his new Norwegian-British ensemble. In contrast to Food and its electronic soundscapes, TIABG is an all-acoustic group which plays what its drummer-leader-composer calls “melodic music with a twist.” Its melodies unfurl sinuously over shifting rhythmic patterns. The band was built to include a number of overlapping musical sub-groups. “There is a kind of enhanced piano trio at the centre of Time Is A Blind Guide,” says Strønen. “And there is a string group with violin and cello and bass – over the years I’ve written lots of music for strings – as well as a drum ensemble with me and Siv Øyunn Kjenstad and Steinar Mossige…” The two percussionists often assert strong and solid grooves, allowing Strønen to play freely on top of the rhythms and to interact dynamically with the outstanding young English pianist Kit Downes, who makes his ECM debut here. Time Is A Blind Guide was recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in July 2015 and is rush-released in time for a Japanese tour.
Time Is A Blind Guide ist sowohl der Titel von Thomas Strønens Album als auch der Name seines neuen norwegisch-britischen Ensembles. Im Gegensatz zu seiner Formation Food und deren elektronischen Soundscapes ist TIABG eine rein akustisch agierende Gruppe, die „melodische Musik mit einem speziellen Twist“ spielt, wie der Schlagzeuger-Bandleader-Komponist es ausdrückt. Ihre Melodien entfalten sich geschmeidig über sich verlagernden rhythmischen Mustern. Die Band wurde zusammengestellt, um eine Reihe sich überschneidender musikalischer Untergruppen zu vereinen. „Es gibt eine Art erweitertes Klaviertrio im Zentrum von Time Is A Blind Guide“, sagt Strønen. „Und dann gibt es eine Streichergruppe mit Geige, Cello und Bass – über die Jahre habe ich viel Musik für Streicher geschrieben – und außerdem noch ein Trommelensemble mit Siv Øyunn Kjenstad, Steinar Mossige und mir…“ Die beiden Percussionisten liefern häufig kräftige und solide Grooves, die es Strønen erlauben, frei über den Rhythmen zu spielen und dynamisch mit dem herausragenden jungen englischen Pianisten Kit Downes zu interagieren, der hier sein ECM-Debüt gibt. Time Is A Blind Guide wurde im Juli 2015 im Rainbow Studio in Oslo aufgenommen und erscheint rechtzeitig zu einer Japan-Tournee.
Featured Artists Recorded

June 2015, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Original Release Date


  • 1The Stone Carriers
    (Thomas Strønen)
  • 2Baka / Tide
    (Thomas Strønen)
  • 3Everything Disappears I
    (Kit Downes, Thomas Strønen)
  • 4Pipa
    (Thomas Strønen)
  • 5I Don't Wait For Anyone
    (Thomas Strønen)
  • 6The Drowned City
    (Thomas Strønen)
  • 7Lost Souls
    (Thomas Strønen)
  • 8Everything Disappears II (Ode to JT)
    (Thomas Strønen)
  • 9Time Is A Blind Guide
    (Thomas Strønen)
  • 10As We Wait For Time
    (Thomas Strønen)
  • 11Simples
    (Thomas Strønen)
“Time” is a guiding principle in any drummer’s ensemble, not least when it is subtly subdivided or extended as it is in this debut by Thomas Strønen’s acoustic group. The name derives from a literary source, “Time is a blind guide” being the first sentence in Canadian author Anne Michaels’s 1996 novel Fugitive Pieces.
The band ‘Time Is A Blind Guide’ was formed rather spontaneously, following an invitation from UK broadcaster Fiona Talkington, an early supporter of the Strønen/Iain Ballamy group ‘Food’, who commissioned Thomas to write music for a combination of Norwegian and British musicians for Conexions, a concert series she was curating at Oslo’s Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene. Thomas Strønen: “We were talking about different musicians and she put forward some names – one of them was [pianist] Kit Downes, a very good recommendation – and I put forward some names. Then I wrote music for the ensemble and put the band together for the concert. It went really well, and I realized right away that we couldn’t stop at this point. We needed to develop the music further, we needed to play more. I’d had no intention of starting a new band – at that point I was playing in loads of different groups – but the musical potential was so evident that we needed to pursue it. So I began to cut back on other activities, making ‘Time Is A Blind Guide’ a priority, so we could get the music really strong and solid.”
The group played concerts over a two year period before going to the studio. The album Time Is A Blind Guide was recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in July 2015, with Strønen and Sun Chung producing. The leader’s vision of a strongly melodic and energetic music underpinned by unorthodox time signatures and fluid rhythms is fully borne out. “I like that feeling of melodies so accessible you can sing them, yet it’s challenging to clap your hands or stamp your feet to the music. It’s melodic music with a twist.”
The band was built to include a number of overlapping musical sub-groups. “Almost every drummer and every pianist loves to play in piano trios, and there is a kind of enhanced piano trio at the centre of ‘Time Is A Blind Guide’. And there is a string group with violin and cello and bass – over the years I’ve written lots of music for strings. And there’s also a drum ensemble with me and Siv Øyunn Kjenstad and Steinar Mossige…” For smaller gigs, the band contracts to quintet size, minus its percussionists, but their presence is important here. “I wanted to have this group be completely acoustic, and avoid electronics in this context, but in a way the percussionists have a role a bit like my sampler in Food. Not that I ‘programme’ them [laughs], but they have specific tasks between the tunes, and they play solid grooves so I can either play very freely on top, or simply play less when I choose to.” Together drums and percussion have a detailed grip on the subtly shifting rhythms. Strønen traces his involvement with unorthodox time signatures back to his years in Trondheim. “Both at the Music Conservatory and the Jazz Academy I started working on odd signatures and polyrhythms and studied music of many different traditions – Gamelan music, West African music, Japanese music and more. And I had a long period of listening to Minimal music, Steve Reich, Philip Glass and so on. In younger years I played in a number of bands where the music was based around advanced rhythmic ideas. At a certain point I let it go and played more free and open music, but it has come back, transformed, in this ensemble.”
Håkon Aase recently replaced ‘Time Is A Blind Guide’s’ original violinist Nils Økland –  Strønen: “I heard Håkon play at the Royal Academy of Music in Oslo a couple of times. He’s really young and his musical potential is enormous. I thought: he could be just the force we need for this band with loads of energy and good ideas.” In the ensemble’s string section he joins gifted UK cellist Lucy Railton, one of few contemporary classical players equally at home in the worlds of improvised music and jazz. She’s played in duo with Kit Downes and in his quintet, and recorded Giancinto Scelsi’s Duo for violin and cello with Aisha Orazbayeva.
Kit Downes, widely-acclaimed UK pianist, makes his ECM debut with Time Is A Blind Guide. Downes also leads his own trio, and plays regularly with the electric trio Troyka, with Stan Sulzmann and many others.
Bassist Ole Morten Vågan founded the band Motif in 1999, a group which gave early exposure to Mathias Eick. He has composed for the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and collaborated with numerous free improvisers. In ‘Time Is A Blind Guide’ his muscular bass has a significant centering role.
Thomas Strønen’s wide ranging compositions here include a melancholic drum piece, “Everything Disappears II (Ode to JT)”, the dedication being to John Taylor, with whom Thomas worked in the trio Meadow, with Tore Brunborg. “I could as easily have dedicated everything to John,” Strønen says. “He was such an inspiring and positive musician to be around.”