Erlend Albertsen Basspace

Name of the Wind

Norwegian quintet combine jazz, electronics, a dizzying variety of folk traditions and some seriously heavy bottom to delightful effect, finds Tom Bolton

Erlend Albertsen Basspace are five musicians, mostly from Norway, who play violin, viola and bass, drums, piano, synth and soprano sax. Occasionally there are vocals, but on paper they sound like a standard jazz quintet. In reality, they are like nothing apart from themselves, a band who are both captivating and highly original, distilling what they describe as “electro-acoustic soundscapes”. They certainly have bass – a ripe, resonant, plucked double bass line that drives tracks throughout the album in an unpredictable fashion that represents the stylistic switches that define their music. The bass line lurches, drunkenly, from side to side on ‘Hittil ukjent vesen’, prancing on ‘Kj’rleik’, galloping on ‘Det monumentale ved stein’ or growling by the sidelines on ‘Music – my favourite social medium’.

The band’s sound is an unhurried yet highly energised jazz. Sometimes it sounds as though their music is heading exactly where you would expect, all low-slung bass, saxophone and hi-hat percussion, but this never lasts long. On ‘Hittil ukjent vesen’ the relaxed atmosphere is undermined by an insistent synth, which plays a repeating figure over the top, like a distress signal. ‘Bakenforliggende’ has vocals that slide between what could be Georgian plainsong and doom metal croak. The fiddle tune over a background drone sounds Moroccan or Indian. The combination is fundamentally weird, but never seems forced. Instead, the band sounds like musicians expressing themselves in ways that make complete sense to them. Their soundscapes pull the listener in and dunk them in a sea of noises.

Name of the Wind is full of delights. ‘Music – my favourite social medium’ is a riotous track that eventually dies away into single piano notes. ‘Jacque Fresco and the Venus Project’ has a bouncy synth rhythm reminiscent of Czech children’s animation of the 1970s. ‘Kj’rleik’ has a fiddle reel. ‘Akkordene’ reminds me of North Sea Radio Orchestra, with added lyrical saxophone. The title track has a powerful, swelling piano melody, one of those tunes that sounds instantly, gloriously familiar. It is an entirely joyful experience. The album is unclassifiable, but rooted in relaxed, super-confident playing and what almost amounts to a new tradition of learned and assimilated influences. Erlend Albert Basspace come bursting out of the traps, fully formed and playing with a sophistication that makes it remarkable they are not better known outside Norway. This is something that will surely change.

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