Norwegian-born bassist Eivind Opsvik has been a mainstay of the Downtown scene since his relocation to New York over two decades ago. Starting in 2003, he began issuing a series of sequentially numbered instrumental albums under the banner Overseas, which have featured some of Gotham's finest musicians. Bolstered by the improvisational mettle of his longstanding bandmates, Opsvik's accessible tunes draw melodic, harmonic and rhythmic inspiration from popular music, rather than traditional jazz.
Overseas V incrementally ups the ante from previous efforts, blending tuneful themes and freewheeling excursions with an increased focus on studio craft. Using overdubbing and remixing, Opsvik's latest batch of songs emulates the ubiquitous nostalgia of '80s New Wave: the brooding basslines of Joy Division; the angular Afro-funk of Talking Heads; and the oblique lyricism of Brian Eno's seminal art rock all factor into his multihued writing.
The current lineup features saxophonist Tony Malaby, guitarist Brandon Seabrook, keyboardist Jacob Sacks and drummer Kenny Wollesen, who curtail their outré tendencies in Opsvik's meticulous compositions, which are written specifically for them. The group cut the session at Manhattan's historic Sear Sound studio, with Opsvik mixing overdubs at his Brooklyn-based Greenwood Underground studio, lending the finished numbers a rare level of sonic detail compared to most conventional jazz recordings.
The nine tracks on the LP-length release run no longer than typical pop songs, necessitating succinct improvisations. Malaby's protean tenor solos are models of concision, Sacks reveals neo-classical influences and Wollesen grooves adroitly, while Seabrookthe wildcardvacillates wildly between atmospheric ruminations and unfettered shredding. The guitarist's eclectic fretwork is firmly anchored in the present, imbuing the proceedings with a post-rock sensibility.
The album's stylistic diversity is emblematic of Opsvik's catholic taste, whether veering from the lush balladry of "Extraterrestrial Tantrum" to the punk disco hybrid "Brraps!" or the motoric drive of "First Challenge On The Road" to the ethereal tone poem "Shoppers And Pickpockets." Singularly unique, Overseas V is another forward-thinking installment in an oeuvre that transcends the limitations of genre.
I'm Up This Step; Hold Everything; Extraterrestrial Tantrum; Brraps!; Cozy Little Nightmare; First Challenge on the Road; Shoppers and Pickpockets; IZO; Katmania Duskmann.