Eivind Opsvik: Overseas IV (2012)
For the past decade, Norwegian-born, New York-based bassist Eivind Opsvik has been leading his venerable Overseas ensemble through a variety of musical terrain, first heard on their self-titled 2003 Fresh Sound New Talent debut. Overseas IV, the second Overseas album to be released on Opsvik's own Loyal Label, features a stripped-down version of the original line-up, albeit one more expansive in its range of musical expression. Inspired in part by Sofia Coppola's 2006 film Marie Antoinette, this fourth recording from Opsvik's flagship band is the strongest yet.
As Opsvik states in a press release about Coppola's movie, "I loved the way modern music was mixed with the imagery of 18th century France." Opsvik inverts this dynamic, seamlessly incorporating antique instrumentation and bygone music forms into a contemporary setting. A key element in this equation is veteran keyboardist Jacob Sacks' addition of harpsichord to his arsenal; the instrument's metallic timbre and classical affiliations imbue the proceedings with an evocative baroque air. In contrast, the newest member, guitar wunderkind Brandon Seabrook, provides a hefty dose of visceral modernity with a riotous patchwork of punk rock attitude and futuristic psychedeliayet his amplified fretwork unexpectedly harmonizes with the Old World charm of Sacks' scintillating arpeggios. Longstanding drummer Kenny Wollessen and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby feature prominently as well, their multihued efforts playing vital roles in Overseas' melodious sound.
Evincing its historical theme, a stately processional tone infuses the session's rich cinematic ambiance, hearkening from the lush strains of the regal opener, "They Will Hear the Drumsand They Will Answer" to the ramshackle closing march, "Youth Hopeth All Things, Believeth All Things." In-between, the quintet explores an impressive range of sonic vistas, from the aggressive rock anthem "Robbers and Fairground Folk" to the serene meditation "Det Kalde Havet," buoyed by the leader's sonorous arco. The jittery funk of "Michelle Marie" highlights the rhythm section's tightly syncopated interplay, while the phantasmagoric epic "1786" builds from hypnotic minimalism to rhapsodic counterpoint, spotlighting Malaby's ecstatic tenor.
Throughout the date, Opsvik's bold writing deftly juxtaposes nostalgia and modernity, yielding a truly unclassifiable hybrid. One of today's most compelling musical statements, Overseas IV is a fully realized effort whose equitable blend of folksy melody, neo-classical harmonic sophistication, and avant-garde improvisation transcends the limitations of genre.
Track Listing: They Will Hear the Drums - and They Will Answer; White Armour; 1786; Silkweavers' Song; Men on Horses; Robbers and Fairground Folk; Michelle Marie; Nineteen to the Dozen; Det Kalde Havet; Youth Hopeth All Things, Believeth All Things.
Personnel: Eivind Opsvik: bass; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Brandon Seabrook: electric guitar, mandolin; Jacob Sacks: harpsichord, farfisa organ, piano; Kenny Wollesen: drums, cymbals, timpani, vibraphone, marching machine.