CD Review of Overseas III by Eivind Opsvik
Recommended if you like
Grant Green, Miles Davis, Brian Eno
Loyal Label
Eivind Opsvik: Overseas III

Reviewed by Jason Thompson


egging Norwegian Eivind Opsvik is like pegging any fringe musician: You can sit around all day and discuss where he’s coming from, but you’re probably going to be doing it in circles, and at the end of the day, you’ll just have to realize that the man’s his own person. There are little bits of classic jazz influences in here, fusion jazz noodling, avant-garde electronica, basic slow groove, ambient textures, and a whole lot more. At its heart this is experimental jazz. Not like the way-out John Zorn, or even Coltrane at his most eclectic, but the slow burn, down-turned variety that still has plenty of beauty underneath all of its darker undertones.

Overseas III is as apt at title as any, borrowing from those old Brian Eno ambient-themed albums but going far beyond them in the sonic palette. This isn’t so much a soundtrack for a foreign land or the oceans themselves as it is the feelings that such things can convey – strictly abstract with a lush, postmodern bent that can be best described as aural relaxation. But don’t go thinking this is any of that New Age hoo-ha that you can get at Target for $7.99 – Opsvik is a true artist, making lush, plush music that has as much to do with the space-like qualities of Jason Pierce as it does the peaceful qualities of the great outdoors.

Opening with the softly-textured “Neil,” Opsvik invites his listeners to take a trip down a somewhat ‘70s-soaked lane with its slow beats, warm electric piano and steel guitars, while dipping into vibraphones and sax play that brings to mind the work of Grant Green’s backing group on his funkiest affairs while also briefly touching upon Steely Dan territory, though without any of Donald Fagen’s vocal observations. That’s fine, as they needn’t be there to illustrate the picture. “Everseas” continues along, dropping the soul-jazz groove for a strictly languid, ambient-dopamine rush, with Opsvik letting each note linger and melt away vividly, the sax and piano caressing each other into a warm, cottony oblivion.

“Silver” eases into focus with a very non-jazz pedal steel guitar intro before segueing into the main sax-tempered-with-bongos and fretless bass groove, bringing to mind tropical hideaways and lounge pad serenity. Pure bliss, especially when the electric piano goes for its solo. “Ginger Rogers,” on the other hand, is all smoky film-noir with brushed drums, hypnotically circular keyboard patterns with splashes of abstract piano Dada reconfiguring into dark nightclub themes, partially reminiscent of Monk, partially reminiscent of Brubeck. Opsvik has brief flirtations with the masters before taking it all away himself, much to a hipster phony like Angelo Badalamenti’s chagrin.

“Breath of Bark” takes the steel guitars and runs them headlong into avant-garde saxophone, all honking and dying as if a big, fat bird was hit by a kid with a hammer and was left to flop around in its misery under a hot sun. “Whiff of Wood” is all squeaky atmosphere – a creepy soundtrack to some unnerving memory someone hid away for as long as possible. The closing “Lull of Lumber” brings everything back into semi-classic jazz focus, with Opsvik channeling his inner Mingus. Who knew that such a bizarre jazz surprise would come from a Norwegian on an indie label? For fans of the jazzmen who took chances, lounge lizards, and those who just love music in a most unique sense, Eivind Opsvik’s Overseas III may very well be your favorite release of 2008.

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