Jordsjø is quite an unusual band. Their apparent prog influences include Genesis, King Crimson, and Porcupine Tree; however, they have also expressed admiration for classic horror movie soundtracks and Scandinavian folk music, and such influences come through clearly on their latest album, Nattfiolen. Based in Oslo, Norway, they consist of vocalist, flautist, and multi-instrumentalist Håkon Oftung, keyboardist Ståle Langhelle, guitarist and bassist Håkon Knutzen, and drummer Kristian Frølund. Their music is earthy, ethereal, and dramatic.
First we have “Ouverture,” which appears to be French for “overture.” True to its name, it is merely an intro track, lasting a whopping one minute and twenty-one seconds. I don’t really like it, but if intro tracks are your thing, this is about as good as they come. It is closely followed by the sweeping keys and momentous drum fills of “Stifinner” (which, for the record, would have been a heck of a great opening track). It then segues into an acoustically-driven, folk-influenced verse featuring a delightful melody, technical organ licks, and a great bass groove. Next, we hear a first-rate guitar solo accompanied by flute, followed by a more atmospheric section reminiscent of the transition in “Roundabout” by Yes. (Okay, we’re only four minutes in. This is really fast-paced music). This builds into an up-tempo jam marked by what my colleague Jason would call “squiggle.” The verse melody then returns on a flute, followed by the riff from the beginning of the song. It’s an awesome mini-epic.
“Solens Sirkulære Sang” is a dark, ominous piece reminiscent of early King Crimson records in its moody, almost medieval atmosphere, fluid woodwinds, and jazzy, Larks’ Tongues-esque guitar tone. After the verses, the band plays a dramatically building piece which betrays their penchant for old horror films. This jam section gives way to another verse, followed by an eerie bit prominently featuring a repeating guitar-flute motif accented by changes in the rest of the band. It may be my favorite track on the album. “Septemberbål,” a brief but rewarding classical guitar solo, soon follows. Next up is “Mine Templer II,” which begins with some mysterious chords and a great fretless bass line. It features a gradual, piano-driven buildup to a fluid, emotional guitar solo.
The next track, “Til Våren,” is a nine-minute mini-epic beginning with a strange, atmospheric melody played on piano and flute. After an organ-driven jam section, we hear an acoustic verse. It then shifts into a warm, gradually building instrumental section reminiscent of Steve Hackett’s work. Gradually, it closes with a chaotic, flute-led jam. The last track, “Ulvenatt,” is a slower piece, almost a ballad, with eerie, hovering organs and smooth, infectious guitar melodies.
Probably my favorite thing about this album is Knutzen’s guitar tone. Steve Hackett comes to mind right off the bat, but perhaps Knutzen is better described as Robert Fripp’s mellower, cleaner brother. I do love the keys as well as the bass tone, and Oftung’s flute adds a gorgeous, vintage touch to the songs. Probably my only complaints would be that the vocals are a bit on the weak side, and I don’t understand Norwegian (the language these lyrics are in). Regardless, this is a strong album with a unique vibe that any fan of classic prog is sure to enjoy.
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