Jordsjø return with their third album Pastoralia, a release which I have looked forward too since I reviewed their last album, Nattfiolen. I have had the privilege to review their first two albums plus the compilation CD of their cassette only releases, which were recorded prior to them signing to Karisma Records. Jordsjø are a duo of Håkon Oftung and Kristian Frøland. Although they have toured as a four piece, Pastoralia is mostly the duo with a number of supporting musicians. For each of their releases the band have stated that they are inspired by old horror movies, German synth music, Norwegian jazz and Swedish folk. That said, there is a distinct retro, folky feel with jazzy inflections and lush melodies, the music having a very earthy quality.
Thematically, this album is based on dreams and a longing for freedom of a fictional place, Pastoralia. There are eight tracks with a total running time of forty-five minute, a nice easily digestible listening time, with tracks running from two to ten minutes. There is a lot to enjoy here. Their music has continued to develop whilst retaining the retro folk-like feel, the jazz and Canterbury influences giving rise to melodic layering and an excellent focus. They are able to move seamlessly through all the musical spheres they have created with beautifully organic textures. They continue to sing in their native Norwegian, and for me this adds to the wonderful musical imagery.
Opening track Prolog is full of jazzy inflections and touches of Camel in a song that clearly states their intentions for the album. Skumring I Karesuando adds a bright and almost positive feel to start, a small acoustic interlude moving into some great guitar work and nice use of flute. Two more tracks of high quality follow before there’s a small shift in style.
Track five, Fuglehviskeren (‘Bird Whisperer’, if my limited Norwegian is right), treats us to acoustic guitar picking the theme supported by double bass with woodwind accompaniment and percussion to give a different but extremely pleasant two-and-a-half minutes. Beitemark follows, woodwind featuring again with bass clarinet taking the lead amid gentle percussive support. The song moves into bright and jazzy territory with washes of Mellotron to set the mood.
Another of the shorter tracksis next with the clear and bright guitar of Vettedans supported by drums and bass before the bass clarinet takes us forward in a beautifully constructed song. This track paves the way for the ending that is Jord III; delicate piano rising in tempo as flute comes in to weave through the twists and turns of folk and jazz themes. The use of spoken word works well and there are a number of musical links to Jord I and Jord II from the previous albums. The ten minutes pass quickly in a very enjoyable song, ending with an almost sinister organ, reminiscent of the old horror movies of their inspirations.
The excellent music coming out of Norway continues and Jordsjø are up there with another high quality, cohesive release that is almost playful at times, clearly a band who enjoy what they are creating. As previously stated, I have looked forward to this release and I have not been disappointed. There is a lot to hear and repeated plays will reap many rewards for the listener. With striking colourful artwork provided by Sindre Foss Skancke, give it a listen.
01. Prologue (2:37)
02. Skumring i Karesuando (7:54)
03. Mellom Mjødurt, Marisko og Søstermarihånd (6:43)
04. Pastoralia (6:19)
05. Fuglehviskeren (2:37)
06. Beitemark (6:15)
07. Vettedans (2:07)
08. Jord III (10:58)
Total Time – 45:13
Håkon Oftung – Vocals, Flute, Guitar, Keyboards
Kristian Frøland – Drums & Percussion
Håkon Knutzen – Guitar
Ola Mile Bruland – Spoken Word
Vilde Mortensen Storesund – Backing Vocals
Mats Lemjan – Bass Clarinet
Christian Meaas Svendsen – Double Bass
Åsa Ree – Violin
Record Label: Karisma Records
Country of Origin: Norway
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Download
Date of Release: 7th May 2021