Outer space and cosmic jazz have long been a match made beyond heaven. The latest act throwing their hat into Saturn's rings is the excellent Norwegian band Rymden, featuring keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft. The trio has clearly boned up on Sun Ra and Lonnie Liston Smith, but rockier influences are present too from the likes of Hawkwind, The Doors, Soft Machine, even Throbbing Gristle, with Marc Moulin's acid jazztronics in there as well.
Closer to home, you can hear the good authority of maverick Nordic genius Esbjorn Svensson (1964-2008), not a surprise given that his longtime colleagues Dan Berglund and Magnus Öström make up Rymden's rhythm section. The complex chemistry and magpie sensibilities of this group are allied to some truly inspired composing on Space Sailors, their second album. Wesseltoft has long had the talent and vision to gain acceptance in his own right. Now with the sonic booms from this duo beside him, he should be aiming for galactic heights.
Much of this record conjures the saucer-eyed wonder of a child watching its first sci-fi movie. "The Life And Death Of Hugo Drax" begins proceedings with a lolloping riff which dares to dream big. A lethal melody, it opens up a perfect unison of bass and keys, all buzzing and bouncing. (Drax was the villainous space-station creator in the overblown Bond film Moonraker). "The Spacesailor" chug-chugs on a rocky drum beat, as chimes from the Fender Rhodes sound like diamonds raining down on Neptune. Nordic inspiration then filters through on "Sondan" where summery piano chords echo Espen Eriksen, while "Terminal One" has the classical grace of Espen Berg.
Technology creeps into "The Final Goodbye" in the form of squelchy electronica. Over what might be mashed-up alien speech, a nervous rhythm from Berglund and Öström is answered by dystopian keys. "Free As A Bird" feels like the studio picked up some abnormal activity as the band dropped a rampant tune over it, leading to a joyous piping coda. Cosmic trills and an ominous backdrop make "Arriving At Ramajay Part II" the perfect soundtrack to approaching some unknown world. By contrast, "My Life In A Mirror" finds a karmic nocturne so radiant that it transcends worldly cares. Maybe this is what meeting a loved one in the next life feels like.
Space Sailors navigates the humming darkness around us like a guide to psychic survival. This fearless album sends a message that anything is possible, whether on earth or far beyond.
The Life And Death Of Hugo Drax; The Spacesailor; Sondan; Terminal One; The Final Goodbye; Pilgrimstad;
Arriving At Ramajay Part I; Arriving At Ramajay Part II; The Actor (Gonzo Goes To Pasadena); My Life In A Mirror;
Free As A Bird; Sondan Outro.
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