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Opsvik & Jennings

Commuter Anthems

(Rune Grammofon; US: 17 Apr 2007; UK: 2 Apr 2007)

Commuter Anthems fits nicely into Rune Grammophon’s catalogue; though all that really means is that it’s a sort of complex, understated instrumental music, informed as much by improvisation and modern classical tonality as its willful subversion to pop forms. Eivind Opsvik and Aaron Jennings are two New York-based multi-instrumentalists with a shared background in free jazz and an obsession with computer tinkery. For such accomplished musicians, their music is surprisingly organic. This modest, instrumental album melds a plethora of influences – from easy atonality to jazz to folk (banjo plays a prominent role in a number of the songs). Opener “The Last Country Village” threatens programmatic electronica, rock, and atonality, before blossoming into a busy pop song, with a bounding guitar fragment providing the theme. Vocals don’t play a huge role, but are introduced as layered ‘Ah’s over “Port Authority”‘s soft train-horns and busy jazz guitar accompaniment – a perfect sound-painting of a busy station at peak hour. And things even veer into gentle, old-movie sountrack sounds on the sawed strings, triangle and banjo sound of “Ways” – which morphs easily into a Matthew Dear-esque haunted electronic groove. Throughout, Opsvik & Jennings demonstrate considerable command of instrumentation and inventive composition, and an impressively wide-ranging interest. Though it’s not the most accessible in Rune Grammofon’s catalogue, Commuter Anthems is a consistently engaging album that rewards much more than it perplexes.

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Dan Raper has been writing about music for PopMatters since 2005. Prior to that he did the same thing for his college newspaper and for his school newspaper before that. Of course he also writes fiction, though his only published work is entitled "Gamma-secretase exists on the plasma membrane as an intact complex that accepts substrates and effects intramembrane cleavage". He is currently studying medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia.


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