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With each succeeding album more impressive than the last, the chamber-pop duo Opsvik & Jennings have released their finest record to date with A Dream I Used To Remember. The third release from Norwegian bassist Eivind Opsvik and Oklahoma-born guitarist Aaron Jennings follows Floyel Files (NCM East, 2005) and Commuter Anthems (Rune Grammofon, 2007). Although their previous efforts relied heavily on electronic overdubbing and software augmentation, this session uses less obtrusive studio manipulation and processing, opting for a more organic, live sound.
Maintaining a higher profile than Jennings, Opsvik's collaborations with Kris Davis, Jon Irabagon, Tony Malaby and Jeremy Udden are just a few of the artists Opsvik has recorded and performed with since his relocation to Brooklyn.
Although this project is only tangentially related to traditional jazz, the duo's improvisational skills are reflected in the sophisticated harmonies and concise arrangements that drive their buoyant songs. Bursting with verdant Americana, pastoral folk and nostalgic old world ambience, these pieces sit comfortably alongside the work of their indie rock brethren.
Expanding their palette beyond their usual mix of banjo, acoustic guitar, steel guitar, upright bass, trap set and pump organ, they employ a brass section and vocal choir, pushing into lush panoramic territory. The vocal choir provides ethereal lilt to the bouncy "Swimming Back into the Picture," while the brass section adorns "Anchor Lane Parade" with mellifluous support. Together they blend seamlessly on the sweepingly lyrical "September and Starry-eyed." On their own, the duo crafts ebullient, tuneful melodies, like "The Good Eye," an exemplary pop confection.
Opsvik and Jennings' bucolic, electro-acoustic soundscapes find stylistic accord in the post-rock of such innovators as Mouse On Mars, Sigur Rós and Tortoise, sharing many similarities with the seminal late-'90s recordings of Gastr Del Sol (aka, David Grubbs and Jim O'Rourke). Where Grubbs and O'Rourke often ventured into more avant-garde territory, Opsvik and Jennings stay on the straight and narrow, making A Dream I Used To Remember a delightfully quirky, but always accessible instrumental pop record.
Track Listing: A Dream I Used To Remember; Canada; Swimming Back into the Picture; Anchor Lane Parade; Windswept; Steam and Bells; Sleepy Rush; The Good Eye; September and Starry-eyed; Sunroad.
Personnel: Eivind Opsvik: upright bass, electric bass, drums, percussion, lap steel guitar, piano, pump organ, keyboards, glass, vocals, software; Aaron Jennings: electric guitars, acoustic guitars, banjo, vocals, electronics, software; Peter Opsvik: flute (3), vocals (9); Rich Johnson: trumpet (4, 6, 9), vocals (9); Rob Jost: French horn (4, 6, 9) vocals (9); Brian Drye: trombone (4, 6, 9), vocals (9); R.J. Miller: drums (4, 9); Michelle Arcila: voice (4); Nova Chamber Choir members: Mathilde F. Blichfeldt, Lillian Fjell Hassel, Karianne Jaeger, Karoline Ormasen, Maria Sandve, Hege Kristin Ulvin: vocals (2, 3, 7, 9).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.