Posted on Nov 18th 2011 01:27 am
IN THE COUNTRY
Sounds & Sights
Rune Grammofon 2011
08 Tracks. 65mins05secs / 07 Tracks. 70mins19secs
With three albums published within five years, Norwegian jazz trio In The Country have positioned themselves on the more melodic side of the Rune Grammofon roster. Formed of pianist vocalist Morten Qvenild, who is regularly found operating alongside Susanna Wallumrød as her orchestra or as a member of Shining, bass player Roger Arntzen, also one half of Ballrogg and a member of Damp, and drummer and percussionist Pål Hausken, In The Country started while the three musicians were studying at the Norwegian Academy of Music, in Oslo, back in 2003. A year later, they had signed with Rune Grammofon and released their debut album, This Was The Pace Of My Heartbeat.
Originally intended as a live DVD, Sounds & Sights soon became a much more ambitious project. The band were filmed performing on a couple of Norwegian shows and during a studio session at the end of last year by video director Claus Arthur Breda-Gulbrandsen, who also shot a huge amount of additional material from which the film was cut. The result, shot almost entirely in black and white, acts as an atmospheric counterpoint to the band’s music, with its own narrative and identity. The soundtrack draws from all three of the band’s studio albums and introduces two new original tracks, Afraid and Slow Down, plus a particularly beautiful rendition of Dire Straight’s Brothers In Arms. As it took a life of its own, the trio decided to add an album featuring the material heard on the DVD plus an additional two tracks.
Whilst all three members undeniably contribute to the overall aspect of the music, Qvenild is very much at the centre of it all, his piano being for the most part the main focal point of the band. His extremely fluid and nuanced style infuses each and every second of this record, while Arntzen and Hausken weave perfectly poised rhythmic sections to support him. Tracks such as How To Get Acquainted, Torch Fishing or Tree Canopy Walkway are left to wander for longer than their studio versions, while the ambitious sprawling Kung Home sees the trio stepping away from their usual softly-spoken jazz to inject some fiery passion, as they first fasten the pace, driven by cascading pianos and intense rhythmic activity, then, as they enter a much somber section, ridden with distorted electronics and guitars, before returning to more subtle grounds half way through the piece. Qvenild, Arntzen and Hausken also add vocals to a few pieces here, more prominently on Afraid, Slow Down and in the latter part of Kung Home, but these never overshadow the music itself, instead giving it a different definition, and adding some grain to it.
The two parts of this ambitious project actually work perfectly well as stand-alone offerings, the album part acting as a introduction to the trio’s work, while the DVD opens up the scope of the band to a new dimension and showcases, at least in part, their live incarnation.