May 18, 2024

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CD review: Julie Falkevik trio – New Constellations 2022: Video, CD cover

I watched a movie about the Norwegian city of Ålesund, I really liked it, this year you can visit it in the heat of summer, I looked for a jazz musician there and my search led to this album, and it turned out that we communicated by e-mail. With love, but with a delay, we present, maybe we will meet in the summer too, we will have a good conversation.

The Norwegian piano trio Falkevik will be releasing their second album New Constellations, on September 17th. The album’s first single, “Amplify Me”, was releasedand features multi-instrumentalist Ola Kvernberg.

Their critically acclaimed debut album “Louder Than I’m Used To” was released in 2018, followed by a tour in Norway and Germany.

Falkevik combines the Nordic jazz tradition with quirky and elegant pop melodies that will linger in your ear. Vocalist and pianist Julie Falkevik Tungevåg – whose clear and unique voice instantly mesmerizes the listener – playfully explores the soundscapes of the piano by applying live electronics and effects, which, in turn, provides a distinctive electronic vibe. They create a fascinating musical sphere in which they confidently merge the singer-songwriter style with lyrical instrument passages, riff-based solos, and the flexibility of a jazz trio, demonstrating versatility and thrilling inventiveness.

“In a way, “New Constellations” starts off where we left “Louder Than I’m Used To”. But on this album, we have taken it all to a new level by significantly expanding the extremes,” Falkevik say about the album. The music holds more contrasts and has a sharper expression [than that of the previous album]. It moves in between the extremes: from intimate, gentle piano parts to massive, complex instrumental passages. The music can, in fact, very well resemble the meteorological contrasts of a typical week in songwriter Julie Falkevik Tungevåg’s hometown on western Norway’s weather-bitten and scenic coast. Just like the ocean, the music spans from calm and still to roaring chaos within moments.

“Norway’s Falkevik has composed one of the most beautiful and motivating pieces of music I’ve heard so far this year.” Everything Is Noise.

The album’s lyrics are written in English. As with their previous release, the last track on the album is performed in Norwegian, which – by the audience and reviewer’s reactions – has proven to be a stroke of genius.

The members of Falkevik all have a well-established foothold in the young Norwegian jazz scene. The music is inspired by Ola Kvernberg’s Steamdome Universe, Maria Kannegaard Trio, Jaga Jazzist, Gogo Penguin, Esbjörn Svensson trio and Suzanne Vega.

Falkevik is a trio made up of Julie Falkevik Tungevåg (piano and vocals), Ellen Brekken on bass and Marius Trøan Hansen on drums with David Aleksander Sjølie on the Marxophone on the last track. The Norwegian group’s second album follows its premiere CD, Louder Than I’m Used To, which was very well received by the European press. The trio’s metier is a kind of nexus between jazz and pop which is enhanced by the use of electronica to generate riffs and rhythmic patterns that move from the piano outwards. Their latest album pushes the limits enthusiastically.

The songs are written in English and sung by pianist Julie Falkevik Tungevåg. Maybe, to get some hold on their style, it’s helpful to position them somewhere between EST and The Bad Plus, though obviously their relish for songs puts them at a slight remove from both these powerhouse trios. It’s also true that whilst the bass and drums are in no way subservient to the piano – all generate locked grooves throughout – Falkevik is not really the kind of thrash trio that The Bad Plus is, sometimes at least. So, there’s a more regular drum pulse form the young Norwegian trio allied to those pristine vocals that allow the group to stand within and without those other trio traditions.

But the piano patterns on When We Let Go are strongly reminiscent of EST, and its attractive theme possesses both sonic punch and deft, refined piano stylings and overdubs. There’s a lot going on in these pieces. Traveler has some limpid, rather romantic piano and no vocal whilst the title track has some stabbing piano articulation and unexpected repeating motifs, cleverly subverting expectations. This group really knows how to set loose some catchy grooves, as Changeable shows. Here the overdubs and obvious pop sensibility offer something fresh and attractive, proving the trio never keeps still, is always looking for ways of saying attractive things within the medium.

They solve the problem of predictability in In Public by infiltrating little distortions in the piano over a regular pulse and in Amputation encouraging a pounding bass in the instrument which mixes with Tungevåg’s vocals; here the increase in amplitude really is The Bad Plus territory. By contrast Waltz with its staccati and halting articulation is magnified by the use of what I think is the Wurlitzer, though she also plays a Prophet on the album, and it could be that as well. There’s something Steve Reich-like about the electronica-repeat of Amplify Me but they seem more themselves on the last track, which is the only one sung in their native language and which, with its plangent chords, evokes the deep folkloric traditions of their country in a limpid, cool, slow wash.

The piano trio is a defining ensemble of the last twenty or so years and Scandinavian ensembles are amongst its leading practitioners. Falkevik is a pluralist group, stylistically open to a range of influences, not tied to a single direction. Give them a try.

Falkevik consists of members Julie Falkevik Tungevåg (Erlend Ropstad, Synne Sanden) Ellen Brekken (A Tonic for the Troops, Hedvig Mollestad Trio) and Marius Trøan Hansen (Svarte Svaner, Shan).

New Constellations | FALKEVIK

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