Almost as if to exonerate themselves from blame (“They may not be your favorite things”), Finnish nu-jazz technicians Nuspirit Helsinki offer a bricolage of musicians for the first entry into Backdrop’s Our Favorite Things mix series, where obscure European jazzbos like Flügelschlag! rub elbows with CocoRosie and Trentemøller. Surprisingly, this makes for a slick and agreeable set that enjoys diversity without standing out in any one direction.
Acoustic or electronic, all the songs are unified by ideals of cleanliness, austerity and melodic surface appeal, and it’s clear that Nuspirit Helsinki have paid attention to how they fit within the greater whole. The high point arrives in the middle, when Korpi Ensemble’s nocturnal “A Moment of Love” (reworked by Nuspirit’s Tuomas Kallio) kicks up the energy, then slides into Tales in Tones Trio’s piano-led “Sabari” that snakes like low-key Jaga Jazzist before Flügelschlag!‘s African booty-wiggler “Mendiani” sweeps the image away. It’s particularly effective considering the album’s brevity—only 10 songs in 40 minutes—and provides a few key reference points for Nusprit’s own productions.
There’s a narrative arc in play that involves taxiing (Aisha Duo’s quietly auspicious “Beneath an Evening Sky”), liftoff, cruising, and landing (Flügelschlag!‘s tuckered-out “Zwei Elfen”) that should keep listeners engaged. That’s a big plus since not everything is immediately engaging. A few more vocal pieces, a less neutral mood and a shot of soul might have put this on the level of their eponymous debut in 2002 or the better entries in the Back to Mine series. But still, it works together, and Backdrop employees can go home happy. In lieu of a Nuspirit Helsinki sophomore effort, this will do for now.
// Notes from the Road
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