Mathias Eick: The Door

Nigh-on 40 years young, the uber-brand of European improv brings on the new boy(s).

Mathias Eick

The Door

Label: ECM
US Release Date: 2008-08-19
UK Release Date: 2008-05-26

At the grand old age of 28 (a mere stripling in jazz years..), Norwegian trumpeter/Jagga Jazzist mainstay Mathias Eick has taken the valve between his teeth and recorded his first album as leader. As belated entrances go, this has to be one of the year’s best, or at least most perfectly realised. Not so many ECM artists have moonlighted with a band as removed from Manfred Eicher’s toned-immaculate vibe as alt-rockers Motorpsycho, or freely cite Metallica (as well as the more discernible likes of Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, and Aphex Twin) as an influence, yet Eick represents a younger, leaner side to the label, and the amorphous arc of his talent is something to be heard.

Not that he’s a stranger to the label, having accompanied colleagues as singular as Finnish harpist/pianist Iro Haarla (whose highly acclaimed Northbound echoes inside Eick’s compositions) and Franco-African drummer Manu Katché, but The Door is the ECM aesthetic at its most glacially distinct. Though the press release namechecks Miles Davis, Tomasz Stanko, and Clifford Brown, Eick’s voice is at once entirely Northern and entirely his own, a crepuscular, vaporous whorl as genetically Scandinavian as a Bergman tableau. In lieue of over-improvisation, he loses himself in reverie, ruminations of such ravishing melancholy they’ll have you rationing your listening in case you exhaust them unduly.

There’s nothing especially groundbreaking about Eick’s melodic cues (whether on trumpet, guitar or vibraphone), but therein at least partly lies his strength; from where, and through what collective-unconscious ooze does "Cologne Blues" emanate? Its familiarity insinuates itself with the remorse of ages, yet – present and correctly pristine production notwithstanding - might just as easily have telegraphed its constancy from the reel of some long-archived soundtrack. And if you’ve never heard pedal steel in a jazz context, the dusky pangs of Stian Carstensen may come as a minor revelation, so disciplined in application, so measured in their timing and so concentrated in effect they elevate a honky tonk standby to high art.

High art this music may be, yet its immediacy is striking, bound up with the narrative drive of Eick’s trumpet, and afforded longevity by the invention and subtextual muscle of Jon Balke’s piano. When he’s not transcribing Eick’s disconsolation, or – through the more circumspect melancholy of "October" – leading from the centre, he’s multiplying the scenarios, quick-wittedly foraging in the depths of the same emotional tundra Eick melts from above. Just as crucial to the equation is drummer Audun Kleive: with the title track and "Stavanger" in particular, and to a lesser extent on "Williamsburg" and "Fly", it’s the aggressiveness of his empathy with Eick which lends these compositions much of their cumulative charge. And it’s Kleive who moves the pieces imperceptibly yet inexorably towards resolution, to the kind of exhilerating finales which have Eick’s trumpet aching in perpetuity, or else breaking off, free-skidding into choked yelps.

If there’s a flaw in The Door, it lies in the strength of its opening salvo, an usustainable flow of raw communication which dissipates as it plays out. Perhaps Eick should’ve apportioned the dynamism and intensity of those first three tracks more equitably, but then that might’ve diminished the law of first impressions. If those do indeed count, Mathias Eick is destined for as long, rich and triumphantly plaintive a career as any of his pedigree’d compatriots.







Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.


The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.


Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.


Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.


Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.


The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.


Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.


Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.


Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.


Songwriter Shelly Peiken Revisits "Bitch" for '2.0' Album (premiere)

A monster hit for Meredith Brooks in the late 1990s, "Bitch" gets a new lease on life from its co-creator, Shelly Peiken. "It's a bit moodier than the original but it touts the same universal message," she says.


Leila Sunier Delivers Stunning Preface to New EP via "Sober/Without" (premiere)

With influences ranging from Angel Olsen to Joni Mitchell and Perfume Genius, Leila Sunier demonstrates her compositional prowess on the new single, "Sober/Without".


Speed the Plough Members Team with Mayssa Jallad for "Rush Hour" (premiere)

Caught in a pandemic, Speed the Plough's Baumgartners turned to a faraway musical friend for a collaboration on "Rush Hour" that speaks to the strife and circumstance of our time.


Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."


The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.


Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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