Ozella Music: Nordic Beauty and Beyond
Lien has played with his trio for many years and with his records on Ozella he has been reaping the harvest of an intense process of work. This has also been recognized in the international jazz community and in his homeland where his first Ozella release Hello Troll (Ozella, 2008) even received a Norwegian Grammy Award for Best Jazz Album of 2009. What drives Lien and his trio is the internal process of discovery and together they reach yet another artistic plateau on Natsukashii.
The word natsukashii comes from the Japanese and is linked to the kind of Proustian memory-process where such a thing as a little cake dipped in tee can trigger a whole chain of memories. It is a word imbued with a bittersweet feeling of happiness and melancholy. It is the reliving of the past in the intense moment of now.
Natsukashii can be seen as the aesthetic of the album where Lien's trio like musical archeologists constantly re-discovers new layers of musical tradition and emotion in its music. It's a process that is joyful, but it is also colored by the awareness that everything that has happened in the past never can be the same and therefore an elegiac tone pervades compositions like "Meles Meles," with its delicate dark chords that shimmer and sing.
Lien is also able to take a deep musical journey on his own, which is certainly proven on his solo-piano album Kattenslager (Ozella, 2012), but when he travels with his trio something special happens. A true moment of Natsukashii.
Helge Lien has been inspired by Japanese poetry and philosophy, but Ozella actually has a prominent Japanese artist, Shunsuke Mizuno, in its roster, who is also strongly influenced by his own culture. As he says, "I believe that we can find our peace and healing of heart in Asian music."
The goal of finding peace and healing through music is reflected on his album Slow Time, whose influence from Asian culture is heard not only in the compositions, but also in the choice of instruments like tan-kin and koto.
The atmosphere of the album is at once light and profound. To remember and experience natsukashii one has to be able to slow down and actually sense the surroundings and there's definitely a quality of tactility about the music which is connected to nature through titles like "Song of the Birds," "The Sound Of Rainy Day" and "Beech Forest." It is an album that encourages contemplation and nurtures the emotions, which are allowed to be felt as the strings from guitar and traditional instruments vibrate and the sounds of rattling percussion slowly unfolds a world of wonder. Thus, "Poem after the Rain," with is gentle strings, slow bass pattern and breezy flute, is the equivalent of walking through a forest after a period of heavy rain.
The Taal Tantra Experience
While there's a preference for Nordic lyricism on Ozella, the label cannot be pigeonholed as the champion of a particular geographic area. As the release from Shunsuke Mizuno shows, there are artists of all nationalities on the label, and the genres are just as diverse, ranging from modern jazz to instrumental guitar-music and lounge. A fine example of cross-cultural collaboration is The Taal Tantra Experience, which brings together a wide range of German and Indian musicians to create a contemporary record that lies somewhere between lounge, jazz and world music. It's called Sixth Sense and is a testimony to the telepathic ability the musicians have with each other.
Tonmoy Bose's tabla and the fluid runs from Kai Brückner's guitar are the perfect match and the mixture of hypnotic rhythms and advanced breaks and horn charts work more than well. On "What We Need," bassist Max Hughes anchors the groove solidly, while the Indian guest star Debashish Bhattacharya contributes some tasty slide guitar and the saxophone honks with a joyful sound.
One of the compositions on Sixth Sense is called "Between the Worlds" and this is not only an apt description of the album, but also embodies the approach of Ozella, whose sound takes it departure in the Nordic aesthetic, but reaches beyond it and into all corners of the world. Ultimately, the sound of Ozella isn't about a particular geographic area, be it Germany, India or Norway, but about the ability of music to cross boundaries and create a whole new language of beauty.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Open Air; Opus 71; Jorien; Circle Around; Bigfoot; Ice on Tired Trees; Solo; Cadenza (excerpt from bird suite); From Up Above; Boardwalk; Opus 59; Fast Spacer; Dreaming Strings.
Personnel: Dagobert Bohm: acoustic guitar; Harish Powar: classical guitar; Manfred Zepf: fretless bass.
Tracks: Melody; Morning Call; Magic Hour; Koan 1; Koan 2; Summer's End; Emotions; Sun After The Rain; Landscape; Caravan of Thoughts; Koan 3; Sunlight Through Leavage; On Wings.
Personnel: Axel Schultheiss: acoustic & electric guitar, prepared guitar, loops, soundscapes.
Por el Mar