- Music Information Centre (Norway) - original
In The Country
By: CHRISTIAN LYSVÅG
International reviews start trickling in for In The Country’s second
album “Losing Stones, Collecting Bones.” Already hailed as
a masterpiece in Norway, it seems also the international reception might
equal that of the band’s 2005 debut.
In The Country is a young Norwegian jazz trio that takes its name from
notions of out-of-town travels and home-turf exploration. The members
share a love for revisiting their own country, exploring mountain, forest,
coast and sea; sharing favourite places and spots with each other.
This mind-set is also defining for the music they make: Indifferent to
excess and grandeur -almost shy- the general orientation is rather one
of unhurried and honest clarity. This means narrowing down to musical
particulars and upholding tranquil simplicity rather than pushing limits
and excelling in performance. The characteristics of unhurried motion
and simple “cleansing” structures, with only few emphasized
details, do indeed bear similarities to experiences of nature or countryside.
It reminds one of the promise of enlightenment through simplicity and
it gives the music a character of what the New York Times in its recent
review of their latest album “Losing Stones, Collecting Bones,”
called translucent intimacy. This concept refers to the atmosphere of
internal coalescence that the music manifests: The record shows for itself
an exquisite kind of openness and freedom; a lightness to make music that
doesn’t prove anything, but simply reveals the honest musical conceptions
of the band.
There is something serene about the way In The Country’s music motions
through the record's pieces; like the air from room to room. And these
rooms are indeed translucent, or open to one another: In The Country’s
focus is on incorporating and expressing disparate influences and expressions.
-More important than technical virtuosity or spellbinding musical features
is the effortless, tranquil sweeps that melts the pieces and refine the
music into glass.
In The Country are often praised for their perfectly flowing playing,
where the instruments and sounds seems to merge. This gives a non-composite,
liquid impression and upon this slow flow they can then float small melodies,
extra instruments and luminous little sounds.
One such element on “Losing stones, collecting bones” is distinguished
NYC guitarist Marc Ribot’s guest appearance. His guitar pours into
the liquid as a sparkle –the guitar sound made to stand out and
sea-spray the warmth of the piano and bass- and the way the tones swirl
around imperfectly, makes a large tune like “Torch Fishing”,
Ribot’s most important contribution, more undulating and abrupt
than the Pink Floyd-like atmosphere it reminds of.
Another important trait is the way many of the tunes build into crescendos
in great dynamic waves. But it is the kind of build and the kind of peaks
that are always restrained and only outline full release; one is never
taken out of the tranquil pulse and clean sweeping sensation of the record.
The compositions are all written by Morten Qvenlid, the pianist and driving
force behind the band. In The Country was formed by Qvenlid, drummer Pål
Hausken and bassist Roger Arntzen in 2003 while they where all studying
at the National Academy of Music in Oslo. Though they are certainly a
band, it is nevertheless true that it is Qvenlid’s musical visions
that are set forth. Involved in many different successful projects, In
The Country is his own creation, and it has been described as a kind of
musical self-interpretation. This refers to the fact that Qvenlid is more
broadly oriented than most jazz pianist. As mentioned, he is more about
merging different general kinds of expression, drawing on genres outside
jazz and exploring that freedom, than he is in typical piano virtuosity.
The band’s first release, last year’s “This Was the
Pace of My Heartbeat,” was labelled “one of the finest and
most arresting albums to come out of Europe” (that year) by Downbeat
Magazine. Other critics were just as impressed, on both sides of the Atlantic,
and the amount of attention was a telling sign of the position that young
Norwegian jazz currently holds internationally: It is strange for most
Norwegians to see that artists who get only limited mainstream exposure
in Norway are in fact treated as household names in leading international
At 28 Qvenlid is one such; a well known rising star on the firmament of
international jazz. The two others also have not yet reached 30, and In
The Country is in many ways the epitomic new Norwegian jazz ensemble:
Combining splendid musicality with a laisser-faire attitude that allows
them to make music that is open and accessible in a subtle, cross referential
and arresting way.
“Losing Stones, Collecting Bones” has received reviews on
par with the debut, or even better. Hailed as a masterpiece by domestic
media, international reviews have just begun trickling in. Not least in
the New York Times whose critic sums up by saying that “the thoughtful
album drafts bittersweet melancholy as a softer cousin to the blues.”
In The Country are currently touring Europe with Susanna and the Magical
Orchestra (Qvenlid being the Orchestra) and Supersilent, as part of their
common label RuneGrammofon’s “labelnight” tour of Europe.
Published : 23.11.2006