OPSVIK & JENNINGS: Commuter Anthems (Rune Grammofon)


Posted on Jun 12th 2007 01:02 am

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Opsvik & Jennings: Commuter Anthems

Commuter Anthems
Rune Grammofon 2007
10 Tracks. 46mins36secs

Opsvik & Jennings first appeared as an entity two years ago with their debut album, the superb Fløyel Files, released on NCM East. While Norwegian-born bass player Eivind Jennings had already two albums under his belt, Overseas and Overseas II, published in 2003 and 2005 respectively on Fresh Sounds Records, and had contributed to a considerable number of albums and formations, guitarist Aaron Jennings, hailing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a relative new comer. The pair met in New York where they both relocated in the late nineties.

Their second album, Commuter Anthems, released on Rune Grammofon, can best be described as a game of two halves. In the first section of the album, the pair adopt a rather more bucolic and chilled tone than that heard on Fløyel Files, with delicate melodies floating over air-thin instrumentations primarily formed around electric and acoustic guitars, banjo, concertina, horns and electronics. The album opens with the graceful guitar and piano motifs of The Last Country Village and Silverlake. While very much a continuation of some of the more melodic moments of Fløyel Files, these two pieces show a much more symbiotic approach to sound. The title track, which follows, has the light-hearted disposition and visionary approach of futuristic sixties pop music, underlined by a gentle melody and the prominent display of a Theremin in the background. The mood occasionally dips a tad, especially on the introvert Wrong Place Right Time, but even there, a discreet flute creates elegant patterns over a rather stern backdrop.

In its second half, the album takes a slightly jazzier turn, perhaps highlighting Opsvik’s influence over the pair’s work. Port Authority shows once again subtle sixties influences in its wonderfully melodic main theme, but later, the musical expression becomes more syncopated on I’ll Scrounge Along, where the pair work a much groovier sequence, with Opsvik’s bass taking a more central role. In contrast, Ways is a superbly evocative composition, with a clear cinematic feel. As the track unfolds, it goes through surprising transformations, evoking in turn early twentieth century music and orchestral grandeur before gently fading away in a circling melody. The Pendler is this album’s most ambitious piece, as Opsvik and Jennings appear to make good use of their full instrument arsenal, without ever loosing sight on the melodic aspect of the track. The album concludes with the short and sweet Apology / Goodbye, which dissolves before it is given time to fully develop, leaving the listener wanting more.

Commuter Anthems represents a slight departure for Opsvik & Jennings, who take their original sonic template and expand it in a range of directions, from jazz to folk and country music. The pair crafts beautiful melodies set in delicate yet complex soundscapes, creating often poetic compositions. Ultimately, Opsvik & Jennings defy classification with playful spirit and panache and present a truly enjoyable record.

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