1982: Pintura

That Norwegian trio 1982 chose to leave the eight pieces on its sophomore outing Pintura untitled shouldn't be interpreted as a sign of indifference on the part of Hardanger fiddler Nils Økland, church organ and harmonium player Sigbjørn Apeland, and drummer Øyvind Skarbø. More likely it's a matter of priorities: why waste time mulling over titles when there's music to be played? And beautiful music it is, too, not simply because of the arresting timbral result that comes from combining three such distinctive instrument sounds, but also because of the telepathic interplay that's evident from the first moment of this improvised collection.

Having previously issued albums on ECM and Rune Grammofon, Økland's more than a known quantity by now, and the rustic folk purity of his playing is naturally one of Pintura's primary attractions. Apeland, who distinguished himself earlier in 2011 with the Hubro release Glossolalia, complements Økland splendidly, while Skarbø does much the same in being more colourist than conventional rhythmatist.

The longest piece at more than ten minutes, the third setting offers the most complete example of their artistry, as the three weave in and amongst one another, completing each other's thoughts and filling in the blanks where necessary. Often supplicating in tone, the material finds Økland and Apeland equally dominant, with the fiddler often stepping back to let the harmonium be heard on its own; in addition, Skarbø draws upon a battery of percussion to fill the air with all manner of woodland sounds. On the brief fourth piece, the trio serves up two slow-jam minutes of blues-jazz, with Apeland's keyboard sounding more like electric piano than organ.

The ruminative, even wistful fifth and entrancing eighth are more characteristic of the album as a whole. Listening to such material, one is tempted to draw a parallel between Hubro and ECM, and it's hard not to, given that the former is doing something similar to Manfred Eicher's label in releasing timeless instrumental music that transcends simple categorizing. Though it might contain elements of both, Pintura isn't merely jazz or drone, and though improvised, it hardly breathes the immolating fire one associates with free jazz, even if the wild seventh piece does find the musicians playing their own idiosyncratic brand of ‘out' music.

January 2012