PINING FOR THE FJORDS

Rockin’ All Over The World — #8

Vikings, fjords, Slartibartfast, and homesick parrots. Such are the images springing to mind when Norway comes up in conversation. But did you know it has a reigning King and a conservative female Prime Minister? That the Norse people invented Thor before Marvel comics? Most of the population of over five million are fans of Black Metal? That Norway has an impressive roster of jazz musicians? Read on to discover more about these fascinating Norwegian factoids*. Or at least a little bit about the last.

First we must travel back in time, not to the land of ice and mists, but to Melbourne, Australia, as the seventies stuttered into the eighties. My friend Michael, a guitarist of considerable skill and versatility, introduced me to the music of Terje Rypdal via a homemade cassette.

‘He’s on the ECM label,’ Michael said, and I nodded knowingly even though my entire ECM collection consisted, at that point in time, of one Chick Corea album, another by Pat Metheny, and The Köln Concert (also on cassette). But even that small acquaintance was enough to have me warmed up to what Mr Rypdal might offer.

What came out of my shoebox-sized speakers was a series of haunting guitar jazz compositions that were not like any other jazz I’d heard at that point. Ringing yet with echoes of distance, sharp but cloudy like frozen breath, Rypdal’s music was entrancing. When I came across a copy of his 1975 double album Odyssey in a Pet Sounds sale, I was very pleased indeed.

That’s the copy I’m playing now, and it still captivates with sparse, drifting, yet guided pieces that leave lots of space for both instrumentalists and listener. Here there is a sparse yet intense organ solo, a level of distortion evoking Hendrix more than Jimmy Smith. Elsewhere a trombone features—sounding much more like a flugelhorn than something in an early Louis Armstrong band. The bass playing has vibrancy and even a hint of funk in places, while over the whole broad canvas washes the electric guitar of Terje, guiding rather than commanding, hinting not instructing.

“Darkness Falls” is the opening piece, though “Darkness Calls” would fit better. The echo on the guitar and the sense of space (that phrase again) seem to invite us to enter Rypdal’s landscape of stillness and ices capes. The sixteen minute “Midnite” continues the tone, chilly yet engaging canvases across which the soloists wander. This long piece has a loping, almost Sly & The Family Stone bass line that carries us through black and white vistas…

There is a lot of music across the four sides of Odyssey and not all of it is chilly pastoralism. “Over Birkenrot” works up a forceful jazz-rock wind—Jimi Hendrix meets Bill Frisell—and though none of it will have you reaching for your bukkehorn to play along, there is plenty of cool Scandinavian jazz-psychedelia in these grooves. Get cosy and enjoy the trip.

The temptation to feature Norway’s best known jazz musician—reed player Jan Garbarek—was strong. But instead I want to share another guitarist who is also jazz-related, Elvind Aarset.

I knew nothing about Mr Aarset until I listened to Électronique Noire (1998) and afterwards filed him at the very beginning of the jazz section, a moment of satisfaction for all those carrying the Librarian gene. Musically, I was impressed with the combination of jazz sensibilities (very much in the ECM style) and the modern percussion/rhythm section.

Aarset is no callow youth (he was born in 1961, compared to Rypdal’s 1947, so could hardly be Terje’s musical child) but the sense of the music flowing forwards is striking when one listens to this captivating pair of not-really-jazz albums.**

This intriguing and adventurous CD could be an access point for someone who loved St Germain but wanted more bite and less squishy-couch smoothness. Elvind AA wrote or co-wrote most of the music and, according to the liner notes, “performs all guitars: straight, treated, e-bowed, looped, ugly and pretty.”

Opening track “Dark Moisture” leads with a tense percussive base and the kind of melody that would meld perfectly with a Scandy thriller where the mutilated naked body of a former Olympic skier-turned-politician is found in a schnapps distillery. Trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær has the dominant solo; Miles Davis locked in a cold-store with a two-bar radiator. After almost eight minutes, some growly bass barks segue into swirling wisps of synth and treated guitar… the ‘noire’ of the title certainly reflects a filmic aspect to the music. But it sure ain’t all electronica-meets-jazz laid-backery. “Wake-up call” rocks its hairy arse off—more metal than modal—while “Spooky Danish Waltz” is indeed a woozy triple time melody…with a deliciously filthy guitar solo outro.

I love Elvind Aarset’s debut album. The guitar contortions, treated drums and restrained force of the music means you wouldn’t play this at dinner any more than you’d watch that crime thriller about a cannibalistic faith healer while munching Atlantic salmon. But the energy, invention and commitment leap out of the speakers through the entire hour of the well-named Électronique Noire.

Rypdal and Aarset. Ice steams.

Many thanks to the person(s) unknown who visited Vinyl Connection in sufficient numbers to make this ROCKIN’ ALL OVER THE WORLD post possible.

* Some of which are verifiable, and others of which could reasonably be described as alternative facts.

** Anyone wanting more future-jazz should check out Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær, with whom Elvind Aarset has worked.

44 comments

  1. Ahh shit, great title!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks man. Hope you are not too tired and tuckered out after the long squark that was 2020.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I feel guilty saying it but I had a phenomenal 2020.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Don’t. I’m delighted to hear *someone* did.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I hope you’re OK too. Don’t get me wrong I want this to be over. I’m sick of worrying about my family and friends.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Terje sounds interesting, must check it out. But that parrot wouldn’t pine if you pumped 10,000 volts into it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hope you are not suggesting it is an ex – parrot 🦜?
      Yes, “Odyssey” is excellent.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Have you heard of Sir Nils Olav? He’s a penguin at Edinburgh Zoo who is the mascot and colonel-in-chief of the Norwegian Royal Guard.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nils_Olav

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is absolutely fabulous. Thank you so much for the link. Both my 15 ½ year old and I chuckled out loud (and he shared it with his class group). Just brilliant.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very (very) intrigued by Terje Rypdal. I’m a fan of space and a very inviting album cover and it appears that has both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you know Pat Metheney’s mid-70s work, J? It’s a similar feel, but cooler, a little more stark and less sweet.
      There’s a nice post idea there… albums crammed with space.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can’t say I’m familiar with any of his stuff! Jazz is an area / genre I’m just really started exploring beyond the obvious ‘essentials’.

        … and yes to an ‘albums crammed with space’ post!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I reckon starting with the essentials is a fine approach to testing the waters of jazz. There’s a reason Kind of Blue, Blue Train, and so on are still popular today.
          Maybe you’ll get some leads via blogs (including this one!). As jazz is almost a quarter of the VC collection, I’m featuring it a little more these days despite the much lower ‘recognition’ factor. Anyway, happy exploring!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Miles was the only jazz I listened to for the longest time. I find Coltrane a difficult listen, though I absolutely love A Love Supreme. I’ve recently been getting into Art Blakey, Eric Dolphy, some Monk, wee bit of Wayne Shorter and Brubeck. All the obvious starter stuff, naturally.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. That’s the way to go, for sure. ‘Cos jazz has so many periods and styles—often encompassed by the same artist—it takes ages to work out which bits one likes!

              Liked by 1 person

  5. no mention of Motorpsycho?? top-shelf psychedelic rock, equal parts Sabbath, King Crimson, and the Allman Bros….and they release excellent double albums every other week. for a country with 5 million people, they produce a ton of amazing music…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The country bats well above its population rank, that’s for sure. Don’t know Motorpsycho, critterjams, but with an intriguing set of references like that, something that needs to be remedied! Cheers.

      Like

  6. Glad that I could brighten you and your son’s day!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. If I did something similar to your around the world series, *all* my posts would be about the US. I think it’s pretty cool that you get concentrations like this from other countries. than just US and AUS.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It *is* cool, Jeff. Are the visitors reading the posts or just passing through? No way of knowing, but I’ve enjoyed digging into the collection as a kind of shoutout to those anonymous but welcome travellers.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I believe there are 3 artists from Norway on the 1001 list – A-ha, Röyksopp, and Turbonegro.
    I’m not sure if that qualifies as a fascinating factoid!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Factoid “TICK”, Geoff.
      Accompanying information: None of those artists are in the VC catalogue! 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m still giggling at Elvind’s surname.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course you are.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am genuinely. But in the meantime I have added him to Spotify to check out.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Making an Aarset of himself eh?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. (two thumbs up!)

        Like

  10. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Snicker snicker, on that Monty Python image there…could totally hear that in my head, ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He’s not sleepin’, he’s snuffed it!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I think it’s quite likely that Electronique Noire is the first recording I’ve laid eyes on that makes such effective use of CAT scan images of the skull! 🙂 As ever, I’m woefully unfamiliar with the genre; given my 25% Norwegian heritage, I’ll need to give these gents a listen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s quite a powerful cover image, isn’t it?
      Don’t feel woeful over limited knowledge of Norwegian jazz, JDB. Most folk would only recognise the name Jab Garbarek (primarily for his album with the Hilliard Ensemble) and even those people would be unlikely to know he was from Norway!
      Gotta ask… was the Nordic grandparent a fan of The Pet Shop Sketch?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. …and I think it’s quite likely–actually, *very* likely–that Grandma never laid eyes on John Cleese, Michael Palin or a Norwegian Blue! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I felt for sure I’d already commented on this one? I remember shouting out any post that name-drops Slatibartfast, and loving all the ECM stuff I’ve heard thus far. Anyway, here it is again maybe probably whatever lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are always welcome, Aaron!

      If you were wealthy, is there a label you would collect? Vertigo (swirl era) is a popular choice, but I reckon ECM would be a contender for me.

      Like

      1. Yeah, ECM/ I’d collect up all the old GBV stuff (various labels). Fat Possum. And then I’d go from there. Just gotta get wealthy…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s the tricky bit, really.☹️

          Like

          1. I resigned myself long ago to being unlikely of ever having that, so I’ll just keep muddling along.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Yep. As Split Enz sang, “What more can a poor boy do?”

              Like

            2. Buy records when you can! Enjoy the little things! Go play outside!

              Liked by 1 person

  13. Been listening to “Électronique Noire” on YouTube this afternoon and your comments are unerring as always, as well as entertaining, as always. Definitely getting a nordic noir/crime thriller/Norwegian Blue vibe from a lot of this, Dragon Tattoo or Bron/Broen, with cynical cops named Bang & Olufsen. I lost patience with “Spooky Danish Waltz,” but enjoyed the rest. Later performances seem much more minimalistic? Much more like space music, lots of quiet chiming chords fading away on an ice floe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would SO watch a crime series featuring the jaded Olaf Olufsen (too many nights alone with cheap Latvian vodka) and his new partner, the acidic blonde martial art specialist Monique Bang.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “CSI: Of Monsters and Men”

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I locked into Rypdal a while ago. Fantastic. I will parlay that into Aarset. Thanks Bruce.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love our jazz connections, CB. Aarset is very interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

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