There are parts of Norway where the sun hardly sets for months on end. It stays bright all night and dawn is never dark. The essence of this strange polar light finds its way into Sun Sparkle, the second album from Norwegian act Skydive Trio. Its predecessor, Sun Moee, also referenced our great burning star, which can hardly be coincidence. There is something both mythic and solar about this trio's music. Fittingly it also comes over as equally retro and futuristic.
Sun Sparkle revolves around the glinting guitar work of Thomas T Dahl, though he is only credited with one track here. The others are ascribed to bassist Mats Eilertsen, whose own Rubicon album was released by ECM, and drummer Olavi Louhivuouri who has played with Anthony Braxton and Kenny Wheeler. Together they offer a jazz-rock vibe that pulls you into its current with a seductive tug.
Dahl's fretwork might seem to dictate and dominate, but Eilertsen's bass is a strong presence, dropping notes like depth charges. Louhivuouri rarely keeps to a rigid beat, but matches the fluidity of his main soloist stride for stride. "Launch" sets things going with a rock-solid riff over which Dahl unleashes metallic solos. But this boulder-like opening cleaves apart and the next tracks splinter into shards. "Convoy" smoulders from the start, like the calm before a storm, then "Apollo" whips up a sax-like finale full of unease.
For all its mellow fretboard doodling, this album has a haunted core. It brings to mind the poet W.H. Auden's line about the sound of distant thunder at a picnic. "Descending" and "Ascending" are like the soundtrack to a dark summer's day; the title track basks in mellow ambience and "Surface Stride" marries nervy drums with beatific motifs. Then the final number "Wish I Was Who? (Camera Off)" is relaxed and romantic, bringing perfect closure after the stifling tensions.
For all his obvious homeland influence, Dahl has most in common with U.S. guitarists such as Bill MacKay, Julian Lage and Bill Frisell. There's that same easeful sense of space between notes, along with chords that float like colourful kites. On this classy blend of Nordic jazz and Americana, Skydive Trio goes free-falling together, yet each member flies blissfully alone.
Launch; Convoy; Apollo; Engine Rest; Descending; Surface Stride; Spruce; Ascending; Sun Sparkle; Wish I Was Who? (Camera Off).
Thomas T Dahl: guitar; Mats Eilertsen: upright and electric bass; Olavi Louhivuouri: drums.