SkyDive Trio – Sun Sparkle
Hubro. CD review by Rob Mallows
Norway is a pulsing hotbed of jazz creativity and invention and a source of much that’s good in cutting-edge European jazz at the moment. Sun Sparkle, the second album by SkyDive Trio, reinforces that perception.
This new ‘supergroup’ power trio brings together Nowegian bassist Mats Eilertsen and compatriot, composer and guitarist Thomas T. Dahl, with Finnish percussionist Olavi Louhivuori. Norway and Finland both border the Arctic Circle and this album has a sort of hypnotic, fluid sensibility that dazzles and mesmerises like a musical Northern Lights.
This album has a strong jazz-rock vibe to it on some tracks (what came into my mind at one point was the US band Tool) and tracks like Apollo, with its simple eighth-note bass rhythms and four-to-the-floor drumming, reinforce that idea. Their press release says the band “counters jazz subtlety with rock attack”, and that is a pretty accurate description. There’s enough improvisation, creativity and musical fluidity to please the jazz fan, but you also get chunks of pure rock granite.
The risk is, of course, that this duality pleases neither the jazz fan, the rock fan, or indeed the jazz-rock fan. But Dahl, Eilertsen and Louhivuori offer up enough in the ten original songs on this album, and multiple moods and sensibilities to ensure that it’s a mixture that, on the whole, works well.
Fourth track Engine Rest brings the chill of the fjörd to the album, all quiet introspection and muted, acoustic bass, which leads into Descending, which is all falling guitar arpeggios and bass triplets, sparse but cool, with Dahl’s guitar having at times a country music-like twang that elevates the track out of the ordinary. This Nordic sensibility is also audible on a track like Spruce, where a basic acoustic arpeggio from Dahl is contrasted with bowed bass from Eilertsen that has a calming effect which creates the most beautiful, but also simple, track on an album that, up to this point, is chock full of musical ‘stuff’.
The title track, Sun Sparkle is aptly named. On it, the trio recreates the feel of a sunrise over quiet, snow-capped mountains, the combination of brilliant musical light and a fresh harmonic atmosphere uplifting the soul. Dahl’s guitar work has a transcendent, lyrical quality that you can just luxuriate in. His work on this album offers positive comparison with another recent guitar genre-bending album, Matthew Stevens’ Preverbal (REVIEW HERE)
Norway is, Wikipedia tells me, the 213th least densely populated planet on the planet. Sun Sparkle too feels full of space and uncluttered and a great place in which to lose oneself for an hour.