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Jordsjø — Pastoralia
(Karisma KAR213, 2021, CD / LP / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2021-07-27
Jordsjø’s previous release, Nattfolien (2019), is a very good album, but with Pastoralia they’ve topped it, presenting a wonderful progressive rock blend that has echoes of past eras but sounds fresh and timeless. The music is a sophisticated blend of Canterbury, classic Genesis and Gryphon, and a touch of RIO that is immensely appealing. The compositions and arrangements are meticulous without sounding dry or academic, featuring tasty transitions to different sections and lovely combinations of instruments. The credits are minimal, simply listing Håkon Oftung and Kristian Frøland as the performers, though given the variety one might be inclined to question that. There are guitars, both acoustic and electric, and some of the acoustic work in particular is very strong, with a hint of Classical technique (check out “Fuglehviskeren”). Keyboards involve the usual suspects: organ, piano, electric piano, Mellotron, synthesizers. Flute is often the lead instrument, and it’s very well played; clarinet and bass clarinet also show up, and it really sounds like there’s a bassoon on “Vettedans.” There’s also some nice violin in the mix. The drumming is very creative, and you’ll hear both electric and upright bass. That’s a lot for two guys, but it’s all spot-on, and the compositions take full advantage of the wide range of sounds. Vocals are somewhat understated and in Norwegian, though the main focus is on the instrumental passages. The melodies are wonderfully unpredictable, with unexpected intervals, and they’re backed using a bag full of compositional techniques, including some lovely countermelodies. Oftung is also a member of Tusmørke, which has been quite prolific, but honestly, as good as Tusmørke is, Jordsjø is a step above in sophistication. Pastoralia is one of the best progressive rock albums I’ve heard in the last several years, and stands as one of the highest points of Scandinavian music in recent memory.
Related artist(s): Jordsjø
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