1982 + BJ Cole: 1982 + BJ Cole (2012)
With musical cross-pollination the norm, it's not just about pan-cultural blending; it's just as much about finding ways to blend the contemporary and the antiquated. Since inception, 1982 has combined instruments from across the centuriesharmonium, hardanger fiddle and drum setwonderfully blending Norwegian traditionalism, millennium-spanning classicism and modernistic free improvisation on its self-titled, 2010 NORCD debut. If Pintera (Hubro, 2011) demonstrated further growth and consolidation of 1982's chemistry, 1982 + BJ Cole further broadens the trio's purview by inviting pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole to participate in eight spontaneous compositions that make this 1982's best album yet.
Few may know Cole's name, but equally few have not heard him somewhere, having worked with everyone from ambient music forefathers Brian Eno and Harold Budd to avant-songsmith David Sylvian and pop megastars Elton John and Sting. Even rock 'n' roller Jerry Lewis has enlisted Cole, who has proven himself capable of fitting into absolutely any context. Cole is just one of a number of British musicians recently collaborating with Norwegian artists, kick-started by events like the annual Punkt Live Remix festivalwhere Cole appeared in 2009 for a live remix with Mungolian Jetset and festival artistic directors Jan Bang and Erik Honoréand Connexions, the 2012 series curated by BBC Radio 3 show host of Late Junction Fiona Talkington, whose raison d'être was to bring likeminded musicians from the two countries together, and which has been so successful that a second series is in the works for 2013.
Here, Cole seems a particularly perfect fit for 1982, capable of functioning within the trio's strange hybrid which, in the case of Sigbjørn Apeland, takes the somewhat unwieldy harmonium, with its foot and knee-driven controls, to places few might have imagined possible. That Cole also plays an instrument where knee and foot are fundamental to his instrument's flexibility puts both musicians on even turf, while violinist Nils Økland combines power and a delicacy so light as to, at times, seem more like whispering on strings than bowing them. Drummer Øyvind Skarbø isn't averse to a little timekeeping here and there, but more often than not he's a texturalist and occasional punctuator to the rest of the group's thoughtful and intensely focused interplay.
What Cole brings to the table is an even deeper lyricism and warmth, in particular on his brief solo, "1:06." 1982 can still travel jagged and rough-hewn terrain, as on the opening "9:03" where, between Apleland and Cole, it's as alien a landscape as 1982 has ever explored. But even though this is freely improvised music, found structures abound, emerging from the ether only to slowly dissipate, as Økland engages with Cole later on the same track, for a brief passage of unadorned beauty.
Whether or not 1982 and Cole continue their association, there's little doubt that, after 1982 + BJ Cole's near-telepathic one-day sessionrecorded in late 2011 at the same acoustically rich hall in Bergen, Norway as its 2010 debuteveryone will have walked away with lessons learned that will, no doubt, change the way they work, both now and into the future.
Track Listing: 9:03; 04:22; 03:43; 01:06; 05:21; 02:57; 04:00; 02:59.
Personnel: Nils Økland: Hardanger fiddle, violin; BJ Cole: pedal steel; Sigbjørn Apeland: harmonium; Øyvind Skarbø: drums.