Music

Eivind Opsvik: Overseas V

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

The Norwegian bassist has created a funhouse environment for improvisation, as Overseas V is a perfect example of the kind of hybrid music that jazz has become in 2017.


Eivind Opsvik

Overseas V

Label: Loyal
US Release Date: 2017-03-17
UK Release Date: 2016-03-17
Amazon
iTunes

Norwegian musicians associated with jazz have a stereotype to contend with. Most listeners in the United States know these musicians from being featured on recordings from the ECM label. Players like Jan Garbarek (saxophone), Jon Christensen (drums), Tord Gustavson (piano), and Terje Rypdal (guitar) are all well known yet defined by a positive but narrow classification: controlled, chilly, and gorgeous music. More adventurous listeners know that this image can’t hold water—just listen to the music of the band Atomic (boasting three members from Norway, as well as the band’s explosive/puckish former drummer, Paal Nilssen-Love) and you’ll hear ripping music that defies some icy Nordic cliche.

Bassist Eivind Opsvik lives in New York but came from Olso in 1998, a year after graduating from the Norwegian Academy of Music. He’s been playing with some of the best musicians the new century has to offer, like Craig Taborn, Kris Davis, Tony Malaby, David Binney, Nate Wooley, and Jon Irabagon. His band, Overseas, has been a longstanding project, and its fifth recording, Overseas V, features Malaby on saxophone, Brandon Seabrooks on guitar, Kenny Wollesen on drums, and pianist Jacob Sacks.

Like so much "jazz" today, this recording defies genre conventions. Rather, it's on the hunt for fresh sounds, creative connection to other styles, and interesting landscapes for improvisation. More often than not, this means that Opsvik conceives of rhythmic environments that are invigorating in new ways. “Hold Everything”, for example, is a small concerto for drummer Kenny Wollesen, who begins the tune with a thrilling set of rolls plus hi-hat and cymbal accents that play out over a straight, thumping four on the kick drum. This is the tune’s thesis, backed up by a set of distant keyboard pings! from Sacks, after which Opsvik lays in a disco groove on acoustic bass as Sacks' organ and Seabrooks’ guitar trade melodic statements. Everything gets more complex quickly: piano and saxophone enter in tandem, with Malaby spinning off into a solo that dodges and weaves around that rhythm: Wollesen alternating slow tom rolls with hissing cymbals, all while electronic distortion builds in the background. And then boom! It’s over before the thrill lessens.

This is, as often as not, the aesthetic of Overseas V. It’s notable that Opsvik compositions are rarely “head-solos-head” affairs. His tunes proceed in waves of sound, with melodies that may appear once rather than twice, and often enough without melodies at all. For instance, “First Challenge on the Road” also uses a rock beat but is also up to something much more diabolical. The strong groove on drums is countered with a complex collection of polyrhythms from all the other instruments, creating a Steve Reich-ian wave of subtle contrast pulses. The push and pull of the rhythms is so insistent and interesting that the tune never bothers with a single melody or conventional jazz solos, instead becoming a rising jam that takes you all the way home.

Another tune that leans toward elements of American soul music is “Brraps!”, which is defined by a very fast 12/8 feel on Wollesen’s hi-hat and a funk vibe on guitar. The melody, however, is played arco on the bass and then in octaves by bass and saxophone. It’s fun and chaotic at once—a busy intersection of ideas that get in and out in four minutes.

There is another set of tunes here that come off as busy machines, boxes full of interesting melodies and rhythms. “Cozy Little Nightmare” features Sacks at the start, sounding like Thelonious Monk tumbling into a charming toy shop. A combination of acoustic bass, drums, and electronics generates a looping maze of syncopated beats. “Katmania Duskmann” is a similar joy that's built on a call-and-response pattern between sax and piano. “IZO” is more lyrical, but it jumps between different sections that are fueled by Seabrooks' rock lines. “I’m Up This Step” is comparable but with a bit of debt to the overlapping lines that we associate with Steve Coleman and his MBase approach.

Not everything on Overseas V channels a hard groove or feels busy, though. At least two tracks come somewhat closer to the Nordic chill. “Extraterrestrial Tantrum” unfolds slowly and with impressionistic beauty over a burbling electronic percussion pattern. Sacks places lovely piano voicings along the way, and bowed bass, guitar, and horns simply unwind in layers of sound. “Shoppers and Pickpockets” is equally pastel, with a loping two-feel that lulls your ears into happiness as you wait for a big melody that never arrives. Seabrooks plays a pretty pattern, and Malaby enters minimally. The piano trio alone has a moment—but the tune is mostly a collection of lovely gestures.

Overseas V is so busy and so packed with treats and ideas (and textures and grooves and interactions) that you’ll have to play it again and again and again to fully grasp. My only objection to the collection (and apologies in advance to Tom Hanks) is that it’s a bit like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get, and, well, not one of them is a meal. The performances here are relatively brief, and you can imagine their majesty in concert: a slower sense of development, perhaps, or a deeper exploration of what is possible atop or amidst these environments.

Eivind Opsvik is, at whatever length, a master of creating “feels” and journeys that would have been unrecognizable in the jazz culture of the '60s, '70s, and '80s. His music feels very much up-to-the-minute. This kind of hybrid excitement is the perfect embodiment of where the music has gone—into the unknown of many influences and possibilities.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.

Music

Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.