Bjørnstad/Darling/Rypdal/Christensen: The Sea II (ECM 1633)

The Sea II

Ketil Bjørnstad piano
David Darling cello
Terje Rypdal guitars
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded December 1996 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

If The Sea was a sweeping journey along the surface of its namesake, then this sequel is a plunge into its darkest depths. With the focus of an underwater camera, Ketil Bjørnstad and his peerless group render visible entire worlds we would otherwise never have known. Unlike its predecessor, The Sea II unfolds its map in 10 titled sections, each a different island strung along a melancholy chain. Cellist David darling joins the pianist for the introductory “Lalia.” In so doing, he carries on the sentiments they so beautifully wove together on The River, the chronological and elemental link between the two seas. A voyage in and of itself, it emotes in all directions until guitarist Terje Rypdal brings forth his blade in “Outward Bound.” Jon Christensen’s orchestral drumming is the only reminder of land to be found as we approach the sandy floor. And while Darling does crest a wave in “Brand,” holding fast to boxes from a forgotten shipwreck, within those boxes lie innumerable others. Rypdal rockets off into the night, where more water awaits him as he jumps into that great river in the sky. Anchorage returns in “The Mother,” its quivering arcs the salve for a wounded heart. “Song For A Planet” takes a solemn look at our own, settling into the album’s most understated cradle. Darling and Bjørnstad are simply transcendent on this duo track, as they are on the forlorn “Agnes” and “December,” the latter an ode to the month in which the album was so sensitively recorded. All three speak to the astonishment of their craft. “Mime” is Rypdal’s time to break into the current, a veritable shaft of sunlight lassoed to a dolphin’s fin, while“South” shuffles to the beat of Christensen’s drum, ever detailed and sincere, as Rypdal plies the ether with inquiries of rain and fertility.

This is music to swim in, to touch and be touched by. Don’t let it leave you dry.

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