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Commuter Anthems is the sophomore follow up to Floyel Files (NCM East, 2005), the debut recording of the duo of Norwegian-born bassist Eivind Opsvik and guitarist Aaron Jennings, originally hailing from Tulsa, Oklahoma. While their previous effort was promising enough, it sometimes drifted a little too close to becoming pleasant aural wallpaper. This release shows remarkable growth and compositional maturity, demonstrating intricate writing, recording and arranging skills.
Relying less on virtuosic jazz improvisation than composing creative instrumental music with pop smarts, Opsvik and Jennings embark on a cinematic journey that is equal parts experimental folk, cutting-edge electronica and dreamy Americana. Using studio manipulation and overdubbing, the pair dabbles in a vast array of instruments and approaches, lending an orchestral sheen to the session.
With a rich combination of available textures, the duo uses acoustic guitars, banjo and upright bass with pared-down trap kits and clattering percussion for the structural basis of many of the tunes. Augmenting the core song forms with squirrelly electronic textures, atmospheric drones, shimmering vibes and mellifluous brass, they reveal melodies every bit as catchy as those penned by indie rock heavy weights like Tortoise and the Sea & Cake.
Inspired by their contemporaries, the title track sounds like an outtake from a vintage Gastr Del Sol record. The buoyant lead melody is driven by a soaring theremin as a rousing horn section ascends over percolating layers of sound and a ramshackle, rubato rhythm section. The Chicago influence continues on "Port Authority," a bright, bouncy number driven by acoustic guitar, soothing wordless vocals, glitchy software hiccups and a driving bossa-nova beat; recalling Sam Prekop at his most experimental.
Exploring the middle ground between the experimental and the accessible, Opsvik and Jennings embody a Brooklyn-based sensibility that gives Chicago based post-rockers a run for their money.
Track Listing: : The Last Country Village; Silverlake; Commuter Anthem; Wrong Place Right Time; Lorinda Sea; Port Authority; Ways; I'll Scrounge Along; The Pendler; Apology/Goodbye.
Personnel: Eivind Opsvik: double bass, electric bass, drums, percussion, piano, organ, theremin, vocals, software; Aaron Jennings: electric and acoustic guitars, lap steel, banjo, concertina, vocals, software and electronics; Ben Gerstein: trombone (3, 5, 9); Rich Johnson: trumpet (3, 9); Peter Opsvik: flute (4).
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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