Mike Nock: Ondas (ECM 1220)

ECM 1220

Mike Nock

Mike Nock piano
Eddie Gomez bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded November 1981, Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

How can one not marvel at Mike Nock’s Ondas? Drawing as much from Keith Jarrett as Bill Evans, and in the enviable company of Eddie Gomez and Jon Christensen no less, the sadly overlooked New Zealander left us with one of ECM’s most enduring documents at a time when the label was really getting its bearings. Nock’s pianism gives the illusion of distance, even when up close and personal, as if it were some long shadow, the feet of which are obscured by the horizon. It is also a magnifying glass of vast insight.

Central to this circumscribed detail is the 16-minute opener, “Forgotten Love.” Before a lacy ostinato it unfolds a sheet of paper as landscape, sketching fleeting affections and unrequited maybes. This sets Gomez up for a moth-like solo, as earthbound as it is winged, which then blends into the piano’s left hand. The right, meanwhile, stumbles off and returns with recollections of its travels, each framed by the thinnest of photographic borders. Christensen’s characteristic cymbals patter like rainfall across the title track and on through “Visionary,” in which he also foregrounds a touch-and-go snare. Yet against such a sweeping backdrop, these gestures forget their search for a groove and look more ponderously at where their feet are already planted. Plaintiveness thrives in “Land Of The Long White Cloud” and reveals the set’s most cinematic moments. Nock’s turns of phrase gnarl into a lichen-covered network of roots through which an insectile bass crawls, leaving a melodic honey trail for us to follow in its wake. With such a solemn road behind us, we open ecstatic “Doors” to our final destination.

While Nock may not carry the weight of some of ECM’s more widely recorded movers and shakers, one can hardly begin to quantify the wealth of impressions he leaves behind. This is not music to get lost in, but music that gets lost in you.

Another essential date from the 80s.

<< David Darling: Cycles (ECM 1219)
>> Adelhard Roidinger: Schattseite (ECM 1221)

2 thoughts on “Mike Nock: Ondas (ECM 1220)

  1. Thanks for your appreciative review.

    One of my favourite albums. As another New Zealander, I find that this album conveys a strong sense of a country that is defined by its relationship the sea; “ondas” means “wave” in Spanish.

    It is a pity Mike did not record more with ECM, as Manfred E seems to have inspired something quite special in his music. Among his later albums I would recommend “Touch”. The soundtrack LP “Strata” is also interesting, if you can find it, for its synthesiser work.

    1. Dear Michael,

      Thank you for your insight into the music’s connection to landscape. It allows me to hear it more deeply than before. It seems that Touch is a difficult one to track down, but I will seek it out.

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