Mathias Eick: When we leave (ECM 2660)

Mathias Eick
When we leave

Mathias Eick trumpet, keyboard, voice
Håkon Aase violin, percussion
Andreas Ulvo piano
Audun Erlien bass
Torstein Lofthus drums
Helge Andreas Norbakken drums, percussion
Stian Carstensen pedal steel guitar
Recorded August 2020 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Martin Abrahamsen
Cover: Fidel Sclavo
Mastering: Christoph Stickel
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: September 24, 2021

If you’ve ever reunited with an old friend, picking up where you left off as if no years had kept you apart, then you’ll know what it feels like to immerse yourself in the sounds of When we leave. The appropriately titled “Loving,” the first of seven mononymous originals by bandleader Mathias Eick, is a door that is always open to us. Whether we come bearing gifts of joy or bearing burdens of sadness, here we find a place to warm our bodies and spirits without the pretensions of the world at our backs. The familiar shape of Eick’s trumpet leans into Håkon Aase’s violin, which takes its scissors to the paper-thin pianism of Andreas Ulvo with the care of an artist who woke up with an entire scene in mind. Bassist Audun Erlien, whose arcing gestures in the subsequent “Caring” grace the bellies of the clouds even as Stian Carstensen paints rivers of steel guitar below, blows out the lantern of dreams and replaces it with the wick of self-sufficiency. The blessings of life reveal themselves with resolute humanity, folding every piece of sonic clothing like a napkin after the most humbling meal. All the while, a brushed undercurrent signals the input of drummers Torstein Lofthus and Helge Andreas Norbakken, whose binary star is as melodic as it is rhythmic in frequency.

If any of these impulses can be said to have brothers and sisters, they can be found roaming the architecture of the album’s predecessor, Ravensburg, the autobiographical shades of which find brighter counterparts throughout this sequel in everything but name. Whether in the overlapping territories of “Turning” or the intimate weave of “Flying,” the itinerant listener is likely to lose interest in maps, borders, and divisions of speech. Indeed, as Eick sings in “Arvo,” a below-the-radar tribute to the triadic harmonies of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, the lack of words opens us to the possibility of a language with no other agenda than porous communication. From the opening tintinnabulation arises a band synergy that has a soul of its own and offers its worship without fear. The drumming is especially vibrant and warm to the touch, as are the contours of “Playing,” which is the living embodiment of equitable conversation. And if “Begging” can be said to be a farewell, its placement last in the sequence is as inevitable as its electricity is static. It relies on the contact of our listening to hold its charge, thus passing on timeless wisdom one electron at a time, for time itself may exist of nothing more than a spark drawn to the cadence of infinity.

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