Like his first four Overseas albums, Eivind Opsvik's Overseas V defies conventional descriptions. The New York resident, of Norwegian roots, has developed a peculiar style that marries experimental avant-garde with the folkloric traditions of the North Country. This had been particularly evident on IV when Brandon Seabrook's mandolin and Jacob Sacks' harpsichord meet up with Tony Malaby's saxophone and Kenny Wollesen creative percussion. The cultural clash manages to succeed as a new entity. The quintet personnel remain the same, but the old-world vibe is diminished in favor of a multi-directional edginess on the new album.
Opsvik studied classical bass at the Norwegian Academy of Music and had played with Paal Nilssen-Love and Christian Wallumrod before relocating to the US in 1998. In NYC he teamed up on projects with Anthony Braxton, John Zorn and Nate Wooley to name just a few. Opsvik's Overseas project relates to his two homes and the Atlantic between them; the concept helps to explain the core divergences in his compositions. The current band has been intact since 2005 with the exception of Seabrook who joined in 2010 (and who is showing up everywhere these days).
While there are stylistic differences between IV and V, Opsvik's eccentric composing and arranging are no easier to clarify. The opening "I'm Up This Step" is a case in point with its progressive rock shadings meshing with modern jazz and some less tangible aspects as Seabrook and Malaby engage in a tug-of-war. Wollesen supplies powerful, primal rhythms on "Hold Everything" seemingly taking Sacks and Malaby to a different plane. The leader shines in his diverse playing on "Brraps!"-something of a dance tune in an asymmetrical spin cycle. "Katmania Duskmann" is a feverish mashup of rock guitar and wailing saxophone with Wollesen keeping a thread of coherence. The drummer, in fact, has a more consistently dominant role on Overseas V as heard in the unrelenting beat that invites Seabrook and Opsvik to follow suit on "First Challenge of the Road."
The collection has an odd way of feeling like a lucid program even as it morphs through seemingly un-diagrammed changes; as in the broad inspirations for "IZO" and the angular avant-garde stylings of "Cozy Little Nightmare." Sacks and Opsvikwhile very integral to the proceedingsare a bit more nuanced on Overseas V but this isn't a recording that relies on solos. The complexity of Opsvik's arrangeing is in the constantly moving pieces within his unique compositions.
Track Listing: I'm Up This Step; Hold Everything; Extraterrestrial Tantrum; Brraps!; Cozy Little Nightmare; First Challenge on the Road; Shoppers and Pickpockets; IZO; Katmania Duskmann.
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