Apr 17 2012
For a guy who seems to channel music of the past, Eivind Opsvik is one of the more forward-thinking musicians out there.
Releasing the fourth recording in his Overseas series, bassist Opsvik lays on the Olde Countryside Folk Music with heavy use of the harpsichord, then rockets it into the present day with rock ‘n roll fuel and distortion. The music lands on Planet Jazz, and the music looks like aliens straight out of the X-Files. Not exactly easy to categorize Opsvik’s music, on this album or many of his other projects, but some artists embrace the word ‘experimental’ with a capital E. Opsvik is one of those artists. Probably better to approach his music that way; his music is extraordinarily Different, and avoiding any genre-based preconceptions will make it easier to accept his music on its own terms. At least, that method has worked for me over the course of time.
Let’s talk about Overseas IV…
Your album personnel: Kenny Wollesen (drums, cymbals, timpani, vibraphone, marching machine), Jacob Sacks (harpsichord, farfisa organ, piano), Tony Malaby (sax), Brandon Seabrook (electric guitar, mandolin), and Eivind Opsvik (bass).
It’s important to remember that music being experimental and avant-garde doesn’t necessarily preclude it from being catchy or blissful. Depending on the characteristics of a particular piece of music, it may not end up that way, but it also shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion. Opsvik seems to get this.
That’s also not to say that you can tap your foot along to all of Opsvik’s tunes. Some, like “1786,” which opens with the sound of a minuet as performed by dancers on Dramamine, transitions into a staccato march of military rhythms, then slowly builds into a transcendent lesson on the beauty of repetition as sax solos slowly upward in tight cyclical patterns as the jam of rhythms buffet it upward ever higher into noisier, more chaotic elevations. The tune ends with the band flying off into the setting sun, the sound of their music receding as they fade from sight. It’s the highlight of the album, and arguably, one of the highlights of 2012 thus far.
Where Opsvik is most successful is when he distills all the disparate sounds and mad scientist visions down to a tiny but powerful liquid serenity. The impact is still there, as are the unusual variations in tone and pitch, but it’s communicated in a way that lets the listener sit back, close their eyes, and just slowly drink it all in. It’s one thing to create a Frankenstein monster, but it’s an entirely different thing to create one you can peacefully kick back and have a quiet beer with. Opsvik’s music may be monstrous, but it makes for a good drinking buddy.
The song “White Armour” is a nice example of this…
Even though “White Armour” has its share of distortion and fury, it’s still got a lush languid sway to it, like a Springtime breeze that carries a bit of leftover Winter on its back… relaxing, but with a hint of danger as warning not to let your guard down just quite yet.
Overseas IV is an odd, outstanding album.
Make sure to check out other Opsvik recordings on his site. Also, check out albums where he’s a sideman; pick any innovative modern jazz album from the last few years, and there’s a good chance that Opsvik’s name appears in the credits.
Released on the Loyal Label.
Music from the Brooklyn scene.
You can stream the entire album, and purchase it, on Opsvik’s bandcamp page.