feature photo: Bryan Schutmaat
A few weeks back, we premiered a comical video of a twisted disco tune by a Norwegian bassist and composer in advance of his latest album, and while Eivind Opsvik is not a disco artist, this song is a window into his eccentric, boundless artistry.
That latest album Overseas V is due to drop March 17, 2017 via Opsvik’s Loyal Label, the fifth in a series of projects he’s led over the past fifteen years. Jacob Sacks (keys) and Tony Malaby (tenor sax) have been the mainstays from the start, with Kenny Wollesen (drums) joining not long afterwards. Guitarist Brandon Seabrook arrived in time for Overseas IV (2012), and the quintet remained in place five years later for V.
Since Opsvik can be so unpredictable from song to song, it’s useless to even attempt to draw contrasts between this album from the prior one or the other three. It’s often hard to know what to make of Eivind Opsvik’s music, really, which is precisely what draws listeners into it. Grounded in jazz sensibilities, he is often on record that mad professor character he portrays in the video, pulling in everything from post-punk to steampunk, with a thread of spunk and schizophrenia running through everything he imagines.
Sometimes styles are being displayed concurrently as with an alt-rock melody competing against a modern jazz one over much of “I’m Up This Step” and yet they interlock. “Cozy Little Nightmare” spotlights Sacks in a slightly askew piano style that approximates a Duke Ellington /Thelonious Monk hybrid with classical flourishes tossed in. That curious playing style isn’t the only interesting thing going on with this tune, though, because Opsvik and Wollesen engage in a wobbly, Morse code rhythmic pattern that actually comports to Sacks’ peculiar pianisms. Nevertheless, it’s risky to ever expect patterns to hold on an Opsvik record, even complexity: On “First Challenge Of The Road” Wollesen gallops on a repetitive figure that threatens to get monotonous on purpose, leaving Seabrook to strum increasingly angry on a single chord for several minutes.
Rhythms — the kind that move your feet — play a larger role here than on other progressive jazz records, and that’s meant letting Wollesen get down and leverage his vast ability to adapt to the song. Besides that mutation of disco “Brraps!”, he brings thundering rhythms on “Hold Everything” and a propulsive jungle boogie to “Katmania Duskmann”, where Seabrook’s punk/metal guitar collides with Malaby’s almost-baritone-low sax squeal until they both work each other into a frenzy.
Often so much is articulated in tracks that all run less than six minutes with most of them clocking in under four. By keeping performances time-limited, Opsvik songs are usually packed with uncommon urgency, even in the quieter passages.
Dense or diffused, abstruse or straightforward, sometimes it’s all of these things at once and always a little strange. Overseas V is part of the wild, woolly world of Eivind Opsvik that fans of the unconventional will want to partake.
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