Rhys Marsh

‘Trio’ Review: Sea Of Tranquility

14th July 2013

In terms of Art Rock, Jazz and Contemporary Music (as well as all that falls between the cracks of these now outdated categories), it seems that Norway is where it’s happening right now. Little wonder then, that the singer, songwriter and guitarist Rhys Marsh has recorded his latest album Trio out there with two excellent musicians from the Trondheim-based band Flashback Caruso. Ole Kristian Malmedal chooses the electric piano, and Anders Bjermeland the drums, (both adding vocals) to contribute into the mix of this tight-knit and chamber-sized lineup.

The album is a response to an acclaimed set of live performances reinterpreting the music from Marsh’s previous album The Blue Hour. What is particularly interesting is the strong statement of intent to reinterpret rather than replicate, and to record against the prevailing trends of the day in single takes and with the minimum of overdubs. This provides the music with something retrospective and yet appealingly fresh. It also gives the listener something more akin to a performance than an album, and here the effect is like a jazz recording where things ebb and flow over a longer period, and where there are as many unknowns as knowns.

Marsh’s voice is strong and commanding from the start, and the band revel in the juxtaposition of hard and soft textures, unraveling their themes over the large arches of prog-like movements. The improvised nature of much of the music is helped along by the punctuation of a succession of sections and by playing off the various alternations. The sparse and uncluttered vocal melodies act more like pegs, which just tie the composed music in to certain places and act as a loose framework. Much of the power is also derived from the build-up between these sections. The colour of the Fender Rhodes pervades the whole album providing the equivalent of a 1970′s super 8 film format audio varnish.

“Wooden Heart” is a great opening track which contains some Crimson-esque guitar sequences. “I Watched, As You Disappeared” features some beautiful vocal harmonies, which buzz and ring with a real vibrancy. The same is true of “All Light Fades” (and most of the songs in fact) where the frailer textures help to reveal the full nature of the improvising and the open-ended approach Marsh is aiming at. The inclusion of flautist Ketil Vestrum Eilarsen (Jaga Jazzist / Motorpsycho) in the next track “And I Wait” takes its cue from the ambient sections of Genesis circa 1974/5 but straight away pushes things into more psychedelic and freeform territory, allowing the band to trade in extended improvisations with a growing intensity. The last song (and one of the longest tracks), “The Movements Of Our Last Farewell” starts with a childlike melody but is taken far from this, through the musings of the trio over the course or nearly 12 minutes.

The omission of a dedicated bass player in the trio provides even more freedom. The rest of the album carries on in this manner, shifting between fragility and beauty to passionate intensity. The blend of these elements, particularly as the performances unfold is hypnotic and powerful. For those who take the time and focus to listen, this album is full of subtle variations, and each track leads the listener to join in the musical journey of these three virtuosic and inventive musicians.

Sea Of Tranquility

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