Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Strange Place for Snow, 2002

After the two previous albums From Gagarin's Point of View and Good Morning Sussie Soho became known around Europe, Sony/Columbia in USA released a compilation of them with the name of Somewhere Else Before. It is after this album that E.S.T. performed in New York and Canada. In these tours (including South Korea and Japan) they also performed as a support band for K.D. Lang. After some years later they became the cover of Downbeat magazine, being the first European name in that cover. Having a "strange" name, this album is really a strange jazz album. I once have heard that the name of the album was given after the members were suddenly faced with snow at the outside, while they were trying to make their way out of the room after the Jacuzzi. Most of the pieces are travelling in an improvisational way generally to strange places. There exist lots of masterpieces which became perfect samples of improvisational Nordic trio jazz. Give special attention to Behind the Yashmak and When God Created the Coffeebreak, which are my favorites. There is a hidden track after the  last  piece called September Song and it reflects the members' reaction to the 9/11. The album was recorded in Atlantis Studios by Janne Hansson in December 2001 (except track 1 was recorded at Roam Studio in 2001 by Ake Linton.) The mixing was made at Atlantis in January 2002 by Janne Hansson. The mastering was made by Tommy Lydell at Atlantis Studios. The album was released in 2002, the label is ACT but we see also the name of Superstudio Gul in the booklet. Let me give the playlist and my comments:

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  1. Message (Svensson / Berglund / Öström)
  2. Serenade for the Renegade (Svensson / Berglund / Öström)  
  3. Strange Place for Snow (Svensson / Berglund / Öström)  
  4. Behind the Yashmak (Svensson / Berglund / Öström)  
  5. Bound for the Beauty of the South (Svensson / Berglund / Öström)  
  6. Years of Yearning (Svensson / Berglund / Öström)  
  7. When God Created the Coffeebreak (Svensson / Berglund / Öström)  
  8. Spunky Sprawl (Svensson / Berglund / Öström)  
  9. Carcrash (Svensson / Berglund / Öström)
  1. Message: A soft rhythm of snare-drum touched by brushes and a warning-signal like piano tone are giving the meaning of the title of the piece. The bass accompanies the piano from low lines. The performance is continued by improvisation of mainly piano. This is a good introduction to the album.
  2. Serenade for the Renegade:  Before examining the piece let me tell something about the titles of the pieces of E.S.T. in general. Starting from Gagarin's Point of View, E.S.T. has chosen rhymed and interesting (strange) names for their  performances and pieces, whose meaning behind I usually can not find. The entrance is made by piano introducing the main theme supported by a distorted double-bass played by bow. Magnus Öström carries out again a minimal rhythm first, then uses percussion elements from time to time. We hear lots of electronics both from the piano and from the drum set (some reverb, overlapping distortion and online recorded/played sounds.)
  3. Strange Place for Snow: The name of the album meets us in this piece. The piano, bass and drum play a very soft tune in harmony. The main theme is repeated twice, then Esbjörn starts to improvise it by touching to the inside of the piano. The tension is changing level but it is generally under control. 
  4. Behind The Yashmak: Then my favorite one is gonna come. This piece is one of my samples to show to my friends the importance of E.S.T. and their improvisational power. It follows the previous track's remains. The intro of this nearly 10 minutes masterpiece is made by a constant deep beat and a double-bass with tension (usually supported by electronics.) The piano tries to give the main theme in these conditions. Then Esbjörn starts the improvisation. Listen carefully to the second half to understand how this perfect trio is carrying the improvisation from beginning to end and how important a drummer is for a jazz trio in improvisation. This trio can be a piano one but this piece certainly belongs to Magnus Öström. Look at his lightning-fast touches. You will not believe in the resultant melody created. He is carrying the sound to a strange place for jazz. The piece is suddenly stopped when a signal like a transistor radio tone (but most probably made by bass) is started to be heard at the background.
  5. Bound for the Beauty of The South: After a very crowded but sudden end of the previous piece we listen to a very soft and tranquil tune mostly played by piano and bass accompanied by brushes.
  6. Years of Yearning: This is a very melancholic melody whose main theme is given by piano again reminding me Erik Satie's compositions from time to time. The lower octaves of piano are sometimes used to give a dark fate-like feeling. The last 30 seconds (double bass played by bow)  is detached from rest of the piece, leading to the next track.  
  7. When God Created The Coffee Break: Started very energetic, the melody is continuously evolved by the improvisations. Esbjörn shows (he does not like to do that) some virtuosity with his fast and soft touches. This is a great melody which I can keep on listening forever.
  8. Spunky Sparwl: The piano accompanies to itself for the main theme. Drum and bass are following a walking line for the first minute. Then Dan Berglund carries out a solo part. Magnus Öström makes some colorful additions to the performance with his percussion equipment.  Last parts are carried out by Magnus Öström.
  9. Car Crash: A soft piano and bass welcome us at the end of the album in the piece that is dedicated to a legendary Swedish pianist Jan Johansson died in a car accident. Although it is started with a hopeful melody we feel melancholy at the same time. The electronically supported piano and bass part are just perfect and they are giving some of their plans for their future albums (you can understand that when you listen to Leucocyte) The interval between the fifth and eight minute is empty. Then we meet the hidden track September Song which is dedicated to 9/11 events in USA and started with a distorted tone (most probably from bass) and rhythm of percussion. Some piano notes are hardly heard well beyond the noise. This is one of the most irregular performances of E.S.T.. I think they are purely improvising. The last 4 minutes is started with a silent double-bass partition whose background is electronically supported. Then we hear some piano faded in a crystal sound. The ending of this piece is strangely connected to the first piece of the next album Seven Days of Falling, Ballad For The Unborn
Try these samples but I strongly recommend you listen to the albums from a good equipment 'cause they deserve it:

You can read my other posts about E.S.T. and their albums:

Esbjörn Svensson Trio, The Best Trio of All Times:
The review for When Everyone Has Gone:
The review for Winter in Venice:
The review for From Gagarin's Point of View:
The review for Good Morning Susie Soho:
The review for Seven Days of Falling:
The review for Viaticum:
The review for Tuesday Wonderland:
The review for Leucocyte:
The review for 301:

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