In The Country
I've already stated before many times that the Rune Grammofon label is easily one of my more trusted around. The variety of their releases spans genres like crazy (from the electronic melt jazz of Shining to the quiet fiddle of Nils Økland), but the label has had an absolutely huge string of releases that I've enjoyed very much without so much as a minor stinker among them. In The Country continues the trend of solid output, and although they don't make my blood pulse and stream like some of the more innovative releases on the label, the young jazz trio has created a little gem with This Was The Pace Of My Heartbeat.
As with most artists on the label, the group doesn't simply play the straight and narrow that one would expect from a jazz trio, and also as with most artists on the label, members of the group are also members of several other groups (pianist Morten Qvenild and bassist Roger Arntzen play in both Jaga Jazzist and Shining). Produced in loving analogue by Arve Henriksen, the release features 9 original compositions from Qvenild, as well as a Ryan Adams (if you can believe it) cover and an interpretation of Handel's "Laschia Ch'io Pianga."
I'll be the first to admit that I don't know as much about jazz as many people, but I do know that In The Country as a group is very judicious in their use of space. It's not to say that their pieces aren't active, because at times they are very much so, but the trio is very, very good at creating sparse spaces and then drawing them tighter upon one another. "Tree Canopy Walkway" does just that, letting individual notes decay at the beginning of the track before the piano and bass do a little dance with one another while soft drums provide a sparkling backdrop. "How To Get Acquainted" is even more powerful, as soft cascades of piano slowly build into huge masses of sound while the percussion starts out as simple pings and pops before raining down all around.
On "Aerial Dark Bright Road," the piano melody slowly dissolves into a watery-sounding close that is most likely augmented with keyboards (Qvenild also plays a Casio SK-10 and vibraphone on the release) while the soaring "Viggo" adds wordless vocals to the mix in a way that sounds like a natural, almost gutural release without coming across as silly (in sort of a similar way that Keith Jarrett vocalizes when hitting the juicy parts during his improvisational playing). In the end, your level of interest with the release will probably largely depend on your interest in jazz trios (although In The Country is by no means typical). Because the group doesn't use any digital postproduction or trickery, it's much more straightforward, but it's still quite effective.