May 10 2014
It’s the avant-garde touch that the 1982 trio of Økland, Apeland, and Skarbø applies to their minimalist chamber music that draws the ear in. A variety of strings, keys, and percussion establish a quick foundation of serenity, then immediately goes about chiseling peculiar formations into that peacefulness. Ultimately, they never come close to shattering that penultimate serenity, but they do shape it into something that is vaguely disquieting and supremely compelling.
After a couple trio albums, 1982 added pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole on their self-titled 2012 release. Aside from the intriguing results of an additional element added to the mix, there was the observation at how seamlessly Cole and his pedal steel fit into the odd framework of the 1982 sound… that something as differentiated as 1982 could incorporate an outside element (and, in its own right, the pedal steel on a chamber music album could be considered a little different) and not skip a beat is more than a bit illuminating. It’s a scenario that repeats itself on 1982’s newest release, A/B.
Your album personnel: Nils Økland (Hardanger fiddles, violin), Sigbjørn Apeland (harmonium, piano), Øyvind Skarbø (drums, percussion), and guests: Fredrik Ljungkvist (clarinet), Erik Johannessen (trombone), Sofya Dudaeva (flute), Hanne Liland Rekdal (bassoon), Matthias Wallin (tenor horn), and Stian Omenås (trumpet, composer).
The 18-minute plus “A” side of the album sees the trio joined by a sextet of wind instruments, and in that same way that it played out with the BJ Cole collaboration, the wind instruments suss out new textures of the 1982 sound, even as they are absorbed into its prevailing nature.
The “A” part sheds most of the jazz and folk elements of 1982’s previous pieces and focuses on the chamber music element en force. There is an abounding grace to the “A” piece as it leaps from expression to expression, a parade of surprises that, immediately after the fact, make perfect sense. They chart a course that, looking ahead, is bereft of useful sightlines, but with the gift of hindsight is revealed to be a brightly lit path. This results in a potent mix of suspense and comfort, the intensity of danger and the warmth of having been safe all along.
Wind instruments flutter and squeak and moan. Occasionally there is an undercurrent of harmony that gives the music some lift, but mostly there is a weight to this music that is terrestrial in nature. On strings, Økland often adopts a flight pattern that mirrors the wind instruments, though near the conclusion of “A,” he enters a melodic space that shepherds the piece to a sublime end. This, accompanied by a long low drone with well-timed shifts in tone and percussion that bubbles up at delightful moments marks the “A” piece (titled “18:06”) as one of 1982’s more distinctive endeavors.
The “B” side of the album is comprised of five short pieces, and has 1982 scaling back to their standard trio format. Here, their serenity is enhanced with a liveliness that accelerates the rate of wakefulness for their typically early morning music. The trio returns to its intoxicating mix of chamber, folk, and Nordic jazz. The song “03:51,” shuffles along peacefully to the beat of Skarbø’s drums, while Økland soars melodically just over the surface of Apeland’s harmonium. As distinctive as the extended “A” piece was, this track best exemplifies the absorbing beauty of the trio’s music. And, this, followed by three pieces that are, in turn, eerily unsettling, hypnotically pulsing, and a long melodic sigh, encapsulate so much of this trio’s winning formula.
Released on Hubro Music.
Music from Norway.