Album reviews

Mathias Eick – ‘When we leave’

Mathias Eick – When we leave
(ECM 3856308. Album Review by John Bungey)

Hard day at the home office? Stressed out by your yoga teacher’s bills? The work of Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick seems designed to soothe the troubled soul. Certainly, his carefully constructed vignettes sit at the softly-spoken end of the ECM sound world – a region once rather dismissively termed “sun rising over lake” music by one critic.

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But to bracket this as just high-class chill-out music would be unfair. On his fifth album as leader Eick certainly deploys a honeyed array of textures. Once again he uses violin alongside his wistful trumpet over rippling piano or the soft swell of pedal steel guitar. But Hakon Aase‘s folk fiddle lines have a pleasingly raw edge, and the percussion, though mixed low, is busily inventive. Drummer Helge Andreas Norbakken has played in free jazz groups – there is some salt amid the sweetness.

Eick plays his delicate melodies with a quiet intensity and sometimes, as on Turning, there are echoes of the late Kenny Wheeler’s radiant tone. We are a long way from the Zappa-like acrobatics of the Jaga Jazzist experimental big band to which Eick once belonged.

Midway, just as the album is beginning to sound too eager to please, comes Flying, an impressionistic sketch of a song that’s full of open space and peppered with micro percussion – it may be the best thing here. Next comes Arvo, in which a holy minimalistic wordless vocal is partnered with a rock-ish groove. This pop Pärt slowly builds a satisfying head of steam. Begging is the hymn-like closer, the fiddle gently dancing around Eick’s elegiac theme, the percussion quietly subversive.

The line-up here is the same as on Eick’s previous album, Ravensburg, plus an earlier collaborator, Stian Carstensen, returns on pedal steel. Eick regards When we leave as a natural continuation of that album’s soft textures and gently inventive rhythm patterns. Sun rising over lake music? Well, it’s a rather beautiful lake and a vivid sunrise.

LINK: When we leave on Proper Music

2 replies »

  1. Could that be “Sun Rising Over A STEVE Lake”? He was initially very enthusiastic about all things ECM, but latterly became disenchanted with the general overall modesty of it all. Mathias Eick is currently my favourite musician in the world (following on from the previous holders of that title, Kenny Wheeler, and Eberhard Weber). Eick is a worthy successor to Wheeler in the horn department and, having met and spoken with him, a truly nice guy to boot. I do sometimes miss the general whackiness of Jaga Jazzist in his music, I have to say. Their gig at the O2 Angel Islington was my second favourite concert of all time. I’ll be buying the cd nonetheless. But then again, he could record the Oslo ‘phone book and……………………….

    • Thanks for that thought and for your enthusiasm! The (rhetorical, unlikely ever to be answered but what would we know?!) question is nonetheless a good one.

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