Late last month, drummer Gard Nillsen released his new album, Elastic Wave through ECM Records. The 11-song album is a presentation that jazz fans will agree is worth hearing at least once. That is due in large part to its featured musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly. While the musical content that makes up the record’s body is of interest, the lack of any background on the songs detracts from its presentation to a point. This will be addressed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of Elastic Wave in its own way. The whole makes the album worth hearing at least once.
Elastic Wave, the latest album from drummer Gard Nilssen, is an interesting addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums. It is a presentation worth hearing at least once. That is due in large part to the musical arrangements that make up the album’s body. The arrangements that make up the record’s 44-minute run time are all jazz compositions. The thing is that their sounds and styles are diverse from one to the next. The album’s opener is a gentle, subdued work that exhibits some nice blues influence. That is exhibited through the pairing of the gentle saxophone line, which leads the way, and Nillsen’s equally gentle work with the brushes on the snare and cymbals. Petter Eldh’s work on the double bass gives the arrangement even more richness and depth with the warmth from the bass’ low-end. The nearly four-minute opus makes for a wonderful slow dance composition for any couple.
‘Spending Time With Ludvig,’ which immediately follows, is the polar opposite of the album’s opener. In the case of this song, Andre Roligheten leads the way again with his work on the saxophone while Nillsen and Eldh add their own touches. It is their collective work that really makes the song stand out. That is because the controlled chaos that comes from Nillsen’s performance pairs with Eldh’s own work to give the song something of a free jazz leaning. Nilssen is all over the place, crafting so many polyrhythmic patterns while Eldh does what he can to keep up with Nilssen. The thing is that even in that cacophony, there is some structure that somehow comes of it all. To that end, the contrast of those frenetic performances to that of Roligheten make the song clearly its own work separate from anything else featured in the record.
‘Boogie,’ which comes much later in the album’s nearly 45-minute run time, is yet another song that stands out. In the case of this song, Nilssen once again is all over the place, but far less so than in ‘Spending Time With Ludvig.’ There is more structure here. Roligheten once again leads the way with his performance on the saxophone while Eldh fleshes out the arrangement here more through his performance on the bass. What is really interesting here is what seems at least to this critic as some Western urban influence. That is evident right from the song’s outset through Eldh’s opening bass solo. He keeps that line going as Roligheten and Nilssen join in with their respective performances. The tightness in the beats and in Roligheten’s own tight, staccato playing adds even more to that urban sense. It is yet another enjoyable work that continues to show the diversity in the album’s musical content. When it and the other songs examined here are considered with the rest of the record’s entries, the whole makes the album’s musical content so enjoyable and a strong foundation for the album.
While the musical content that forms the body of Elastic Wave forms a strong foundation for the album, the lack of any background on the songs in the album’s booklet weakens that foundation to a point. The booklet features pictures of Nilssen and company as well as the album’s track listing, but nothing else. The background on the songs was provided to the media through a press release. The release states of ‘Spending Time With Ludvig’ for instance, that the song was inspired by Nilssen’s son and that ‘Til Liv’ was inspired by his daughter.’ ‘Acoustic Dance Music,’ which comes even later in the album’s run, was a John Coltrane-inspired opus, according to the background provided in the press release. What’s more, the song is apparently a “small protest against the encroaching world of electronic dance music.” Understanding that, it makes the full-on bop composition all the more enjoyable. It is such a nice throwback to the sounds of a bygone era and really is so much better than anything electronic. Again though, because nothing is offered in the album’s booklet, audiences would have otherwise not known that. It is just one more way in which the addition of liner notes would have proven so helpful to the album’s presentation. The lack thereof is not enough to doom the album, but it certainly would have helped the listening experience to have had that information and more included in the booklet.
Knowing that the lack of liner notes on the album’s songs is not enough to make the album a failure, there is one other positive to note in the form of the album’s sequencing. From one song to the next, the sequencing keeps the album moving fluidly from one song to the next. From the subdued energy in the album’s opener to the energy in ‘Spending Time With Ludvig’ to the frenetic energy of ‘Boogie’ to the forward-moving, experimental ‘The Room Next To Her’ and the back and forth of the rest of the album’s songs, the whole makes the album constantly change throughout. That changes in sounds and styles are just enough that they keep the record engaging from beginning to end. That stability that the sequencing ensures works with the album’s songs to make the album overall a mostly successful work that any jazz fan should hear at least once.
Elastic Wave, the new album from drummer Gard Nilssen, is a presentation that any jazz fan will find interesting. That is due in large part to its featured musical arrangements. The arrangements vary in sound and style from one to the next. At times, the arrangements lean specifically one way, while at others, they blend various subgenres’ influences for equally interesting compositions. That variety in itself ensures engagement and entertainment. The lack of background on the songs in the album’s booklet detracts from the enjoyment to a point but is not enough to doom the album. The sequencing of the album’s content works with the arrangements to make for more enjoyment. That and the content together are enough to make the album a mostly successful album that any jazz fan should hear at least once.
Elastic Wave is available now through ECM Records. More information on this and other titles from ECM Records is available at:
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