Review by Brad Walseth
I admit to not being very familiar with the ECM "supergroup" - The Sea, of which pianist Bjornstad and guitarist Rypdal were members, along with drummer Jon Christensen and cellist David Darling, but on this new live duo recording, some of the compositions from that short-lived group (they released two albums in the '90s), along with some solo works and a touch of Grieg, form the basis for this pleasantly combustible collaboration. An unlikely pairing of thematic classically-influenced acoustic piano and shredding electric guitar, this partnership works due to the obvious respect of the players and of course, their high level of musicianship.
Rypdal is a guitarist who is often tagged as a rock player, but his command of dynamics and ability to produce textures of incredible beauty (even while burning down the concert hall) speak volumes of his abilities to produce music in any genre. The atmospherics produced by him and Bjornstad are at times symphonic in nature, truly amazing for a duo. This recording was taken from a live performance in 2005 and aside from some crowd sounds near the end has the sound quality of a studio recording. That it also includes the high energy of a live concert makes this a double joy, and the songs included have seem to flow so well from one to another that it nearly seems like one large piece or symphony.
The soundscape produced by the two men is one in which warm consonance flows logically into dissonant crashes like waves on a tumultuous icy sea. The guitar is often distorted and contorted, with surprising jumps and bends. The themes, often driven by Bjornstad's piano, are big and powerful and melodic and the playing and improvisations will stir your soul. Woody Allen said that Wagner's music made him want to invade Poland. This record may not be that extreme, but it certainly is an example of some the best of the steaming pot of classical/jazz glugg the Nordic region brew up.