1982 – 1982 + BJ Cole

1982 is a trio of musicians from Norway: Nils Økland (Hardanger fiddle, violin); Sigbjørn Apeland (harmonium); and Øyvind Skarbø (drums).

With roots in folk music, improv and electronica, they have an inimitably refined sound that they distill into protean miniatures on record. On this album they collaborate with a renowned session musician, BJ Cole (pedal steel): a move perhaps intended to disrupt their settled interiority.

Skarbø says: “We had never played together before, and I hadn’t even met (Cole). Mainly, we improvised freely for a few hours. At intervals we tried more concrete things, for instance a special fiddle tuning, or we recorded an entire track based on one random idea somebody had during one of the freer sessions.” (Source: hubromusic.com).

The first piece, “09:03” begins with a subdued throb of electricity, then an electronic sound that’s totally alien to 1982’s established sound world. The piece – a long one for this group – develops with a wistful solo from Økland on Hardanger fiddle and the quartet play with tentative skittishness around a keening melody that settles into a type of haunted stasis. The Hardanger revisits the core melody like a memory, emerging through mists of harmonium sustain. It’s not just the harmonium that evokes, here, a comparison with Nico’s Marble Index.

The second piece begins more determinedly, with some of Skarbø’s distressed-wood percussion and the pedal steel played with a twang, a la Ry Cooder, and develops like narcotized arthouse zydeco.

At times, the decaying harmonics of the slide emphasises 1982’s trademark elemental yearning, but the thickening of the sound field (particularly where harmonium and pedal steel blend) prompts freer playing and harder emphases: Witness Skarbø’s emphatic entry 1’40” into “03:43” (3), and the way he then withholds: he’s imparting dramatic tension here, not rhythm.

“04:00” (7) is one of the more curious pieces here, the quartet extrapolating a pulse from the creaky throb of the harmonium’s bellows, and working it into dark-hued vignettes.

While in some respects this music seems fragmentary, the whole is richly satisfying. Take “01:06” (4), which is little more than Cole’s luminous development of a pearlescent miniature. It could have served as the intro to a more substantial piece, but it’s complete as it is. And anyway, “05:21” (5) ventures where it might have led, with Økland soloing curtly over tumbling percussion and deep harmonium swells. There’s a ton of drama unfolding here, the quartet stretching time with increasing urgency, yet still finding time for a satisfactory resolution.

With “02:59”, the album’s eighth and final piece, 1982 and BJ Cole come about as close as they are ever likely to get to a regular folk rock form. Thankfully, for all its refinement it still sounds untramelled, wild and elemental.

Related Posts
Cakewalk – Wired
Hubro label roundup: 1982 – Pintura, Erland Dahlen – Rolling Bomber, Tore Brunborg/Kirsti Huke – Scent of Soil

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2 thoughts on “1982 – 1982 + BJ Cole

  1. hey Tim – you’ve prompted me to give this another listen. I love both BJ Cole and Nils Okland and was but found this a bit too unfocussed and provisional to bother going back after one rather cursory listen (curse of the modern age – too much to listen to results in ADD)….

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