604

In The Country: Whiteout

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
In The Country: Whiteout Terms like magnum opus can be dangerous, setting unrealistic expectations for the present and a precedent against which the future will always be measured. Whether or not this release represents a magnum opus is far too early to tell, but In The Country's Whiteout is certainly this Norwegian piano trio's most ambitious album to date, standing to supplant its debut, the marvelously understated This Was the Pace of My Heartbeat (Rune Grammofon, 2005), as its most compelling and evocative album to date.

Four years after Rune Grammofon promoted This Was the Pace as its "first 'jazz' record," pianist Morten Qvenild continues to compose music of painstaking construction, yet still open-ended enough to allow for sensitive interpretation by himself, bassist Roger Arntzen and drummer Pål Hausken. Rather than overt complexity, In The Country's strength is its ability to mould texture, silence and decay into dark, Messaienic music like "From the Shore"—a delicate piece of subtle power, deeply moving in its unfailing allegiance to the space between the notes.

Featuring fewer but longer tracks than its previous releases, the trio—fleshed out to a quartet with multi-instrumentalist/programmer/co-producer Andreas Mjøs, a key member of Jaga Jazzist, heard recently at Molde Jazz 2009—continues to expand its sonic and stylistic palette, meshing an easygoing rhythm and lengthy, pop-like melody with starker harmonic backdrops on "Doves Dance." Qvenild delivers one of his strongest solos of the set—Keith Jarrett-like in its expansive, near-stream-of-consciousness abandon and gospel tinge, but driven by a far more structured environs. Despite haunting sparseness and unabashed contemporary classical tinges in its first half, Qvenild ultimately shifts "Dark Water" into even more defined Jarrett territory, as the trio coalesces around a free country space, referential to the great pianist's American Quartet of the '70s, but with Hausken and Arntzen approaching the music more directly than Charlie Haden and Paul Motian ever did.

"Ursa Major" is more vivid—shifting meters and the near-minimalist interlocking of Qvenild's piano and Møs combined with lengthy themes snaking their way through the polyrhythmic mélange. It also settles into a gentler ending that's texture-rich but inherently elegant, even as it builds to a second climax of processed sonics over Hausken and Arntzen's buried pulse. "W.A.R.M." moves from an introduction so quiet as to necessitate moving forward to hear it, to a repetitively anthemic finale that, despite winding its way through shifting bar lines, is unerringly melodic, with Qvenild, Arntzen and Hausken singing its wordless theme. "Mother," on the other hand, closes the album with Qvenild's synthesizer suggesting a trace of progressive rock, even as its throbbing pulse moves towards a greater fervency than anything that's come before.

Still, at the end of "Mother" are both a return to quiet and a hidden bonus track that provides a sublime underpinning for Arntzen's most starkly beautiful solo of the set. Whiteout may not be its magnum opus, but it is In The Country's most mature, evolved and convincing album yet; a nuanced contender for 2009's "best of" list.

Track Listing: From the Shore; Kungen; Doves Dance; Ursa Major; Dead Water; W.A.R.M.; Mother.

Personnel: Morten Qvenild: grand piano, synthesizers, Fender Rhodes, vocals; Roger Arntzen: double-bass, vocals; Pål Hausken: drums, Dynacord Percuter, percussion, vocals; Andreas Møs: guitars, vibraphone, programming, percussion.

Title: Whiteout | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Rune Grammofon


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read The Company I Keep CD/LP/Track Review The Company I Keep
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Ma De Re Sha CD/LP/Track Review Ma De Re Sha
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Ask Seek Knock CD/LP/Track Review Ask Seek Knock
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Air and Light and Time and Space CD/LP/Track Review Air and Light and Time and Space
by John Eyles
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Eleven Cages CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Afro-Caribbean Mixtape CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017
Read "Tangofied III" CD/LP/Track Review Tangofied III
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 13, 2017
Read "The Dreamer Is the Dream" CD/LP/Track Review The Dreamer Is the Dream
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 24, 2017
Read "Duet" CD/LP/Track Review Duet
by Budd Kopman
Published: October 1, 2016
Read "Live In Sant'Anna Arresi, 2004" CD/LP/Track Review Live In Sant'Anna Arresi, 2004
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 7, 2016
Read "Clockwise: The Music Of Cedar Walton" CD/LP/Track Review Clockwise: The Music Of Cedar Walton
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 19, 2017
Read "Energy - Saul Losada" CD/LP/Track Review Energy - Saul Losada
by Paul Naser
Published: March 15, 2017

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.