Posted on Jul 13th 2009 10:11 pm
OPSVIK & JENNINGS
A Dream I Used To Remember
Loyal Label 2009
10 Tracks. 44mins55secs
It is the third time that New York-based Norwegian multi-instrumentist Eivind Opsvik and Tulsa, OK, born guitarist Aaron Jennings get together to collaborate on an album. Both renowned musicians in their own right, the pair got together in the late nineties when they both moved to New York. Their first album together, Fløyel Files, was published in 2005 on NCM East, was a pretty electronic affair, built around extremely delicate treated acoustic brushes and feeding on both Opsvik’s jazz and Jennings’s pop influences. Since, their sound has progressively moved to incorporate fuller acoustic textures. Their 2007 Commuter Anthems, published on Rune Grammofon, gave Jennings’s guitar playing a much more prominent space, while Opsvik’s warm bass also came through much more clearly.
Released on Opsvik’s relatively new Loyal Label, A Dream I Used To Dream continues where Commuter Anthems left off, and brings in richer soundscapes and more ambitious melodies. The title track, which opens proceedings, is a wonderfully delicate piece built around a recurring theme played on a toy piano which is applied over a playful distressed theme and, bubbling in the background, some distant film dialogues. While this is in no way representative of what the rest of the album sounds like, it gives an insight into its evocative nature. With Canada and Swimming Back Into The Picture, which follow, Opsvik and Jennings create two sister pieces which progress through various stages and build on the cohesive assurance of a fully-formed band, complete with female choir Nova Chamber Choir. This is a process they repeat later on, although with less sweeping cinematic grandeur, on Sleepy Rush.
There is, on this album, something of a sunny disposition, which radiates through much of its forty five minutes, especially on the warm and enchanting Anchor Lane Parade or Steam And Bells, with their chunky slabs of horns, fuelling the pieces’ respective leading themes. Elsewhere, the pair deal with much more ambitious and sophisticated forms. September And Starry-eyed especially displays an impressive formation, with a male choir, formed of Opsvik, Jennings and friends, joining the Nova Chamber Choir, and builds into a particularly epic finale. Closing track Sunroad, goes through a wide range of moods through its eight minutes or so, from its extremely delicate and introvert first half, even reaching near standstill at one point, to its more robust second half, which progressively builds up and, like September And Starry-eyed, finally erupts in dense rich forms toward its end.
The pair also occasionally retreat into more delicate grounds for a moment, as on the wonderfully layered Windsept, on which Jennings plays banjo, acoustic and electric guitars. While there is an almost orchestral feel to the piece, it remains one of the most understated compositions on here. Later on, The Good Eye also shows much restraint, led by a dry plucked guitar laid over an equally arid backdrop from which only Opsvik’s upright bass gives out the only signs of warmth.
This third collaboration between Eivind Opsvik and Aaron Jennings sees them moving further away from the gentle electronics of their debut to affirm themselves as a live entity. They have indeed been performing very regularly in New York over the years, and it certainly transcribes in their music. Building on what they established with Commuter Anthems, yet bringing in more ambitious and rich forms, Opsvik and Jennings have, with this third album, created a clever and mature record.