Translucent intimacy, wry morbidity and an abiding faith in the power of crescendo: these are the basic tools of In the Country, a Norwegian piano trio. Led by the 28-year-old pianist Morten Qvenild, who is probably best known as half of the atmospheric pop duo Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, the group has a dual attraction to unabashed prettiness and shadowy drama. “Losing Stones, Collecting Bones,” its thoughtful second album, drafts bittersweet melancholy as a softer cousin to the blues. Mr. Qvenild wrote all the album’s 11 songs, which often reflect both European classical and American folk influences. His piano playing is fluid, and almost indivisible from the fluctuating dynamics of his partners, the bassist Roger Arntzen and the drummer Pal Hausken. A high-grade guest star, the guitarist Marc Ribot, makes a couple of cameos without altering the ensemble chemistry. On one song the Swedish rock singer Stefan Sundstrom moans a memorable variation on the theme of carpe diem: “Everyone’s going to die/Everyone live their life.” There’s also a vocal part on “Don’t Walk Another Mile,” the sparse alt-country ballad that closes the album. Mr. Qvenild tackles it himself, in a voice quiet enough to seem diffident but firm enough to command attention. It’s the perfect coda for an album of wobbly serenity and arid self-assurance.
New York Times (US)
This album augments the sound In The Country debuted on This Was The Pace Of My Heartbeat, by adding guitar contributions from the incredible Marc Ribot, as well as some additional production duties from Deathprod. The trio even sing as a chorus on some tracks: `Everyone Live Their Life' features the rather depressing mantra "Everyone live their life/Everyone's going to die" repeated over and over to a New Orleans-style funeral dirge accompaniment. The bulk of the album is a highly satisfying continuation of the group's characteristically melodic jazz, however, when Qvenild is left to his own devices on `Medicine Waltz', a whole other side to his playing is revealed. It's the kind of sensitive economy he applies to his role in Susanna And The Magical Orchestra or the spine-tingling cover of Ryan Adams' `In My Time Of Need' from the previous album. A great sophomore recording and no mistake.
With Tom Waits guitarist Marc Ribot and members of Susanna and the Magical Orchestra on hand, this Norwegian trio´s second album is a sure bet. Small-hours chamber-jazz is its main mood, and what a mood: Country´s dissonant reveries unfurl with subtlety, charm and an unadorned grace.
The Independent (UK)
Qvenild has a great talent for musical atmosphere, he can create a distinctive mood with very few notes and sounds. His melodies are spaceous and memorable, his approach to rhythm brings to mind a relaxed Esbjörn Svensson, with a pinch of early Keith Jarrett.
The Guardian (UK)
For a start, there are gaping holes in their slow, close voicings, in which you may breathe. There is room for the odd outburst of dismal singing and overdubbed guitar, by that most gnarly of all six-string oddballs, Marc Ribot. And sometimes the piano is replaced by Hammond or harmonium, to generally engaging effect. You won´t laugh much but you will hear things. 4/5.
Independent on Sunday (UK)
His piano trio specialise in the style of beatific expansion familiar to Paul Bley aficionados, yet ITC still pacl an element of surprise, not in the manner of their debut album´s Ryan Adams cover but more a sudden shift of tone. Such as ”Everyone Live Their Life”, where guest singer Stefan Sundstöm croons, like a barfly sliding off his stool ”everybody´s going to die”. It´s disorientating but deeply pleasureable. 4/5.
An intimate, pianocentric abstraction of folk, jazz and country. 4/5.
Gentle, playful and sometimes passionately onerwrought, In The Country are waiting for you to join them.
The trio´s second album is almost spectral in its underlying melancholy, a largely instrumental affair in which each tune is built around a sparse piano that ekes out a rhythm slower than a funeral march. Downbeat, certainly, and sometimes excessively so, but its desolation is also rather alluring.
Qvenild’s harmonically rich language extends beyond the conventional jazz vernacular to embrace a folksy elegance brought to the forefront on two tracks featuring guest guitarist Marc Ribot. The repetitive nature of “Can I Come Home Now” suggests, in fact, how Bill Frisell’s roots music might sound if his usual folk sources were something other than American. For those who believe that improvisation, interaction and emotional resonance can occur across a broader spectrum, “Losing Stones, Collecting Bones” will be a welcome breath of fresh air.
This Norwegian piano trio does it again, instilling slow-moving, deeply lyric originals with a coiled tension beneath the beauty. Guitarist Marc Ribot makes a pair of potent cameos and some surprisingly effective vocals show up a couple of times, but mouths-shut and on their own, In the Country continues to pack a masterfully restrained punch.
The trio take jazz and meld it to other genres in impressively imaginative ways. "Everyone Live Their Life" fuses Lou Reed melancholia with rangy pop progressions; "Can I Come Home Now" sees guest guitarist and Tom Waits collaborator Marc Ribot craft crystalline fretwork over repeated rock motifs; and "Kung Fu Boys" expands a shimmering piano melody and chugging time-signature into a hypnotic tonal machine. Appealing to post-rocker and jazz aficionado alike, this unique synthesis has a significance reaching far beyond Scandinavian climes.
Always emotive, this is a trio of musicians who despite not being massively inventive still manage to craft a jazz album of the like you won't have heard before. This is due in part to the production, but anyone who may have seen them live a few weeks ago (with Susanna and Supersilent) can attest to the fact that their pure passion and musicianship make this trio endearing to anyone with even a slight yearning for some jazz without the endless soloing.
Norwegian jazz: no I don´t know anything about it either. But some people do, and they´ve dubbed the trio that make up In The Country the best young jazz artists in Norway. Even for a layperson, it´s hard to disagree when faced with this lovely collection of tracks. Their second album is a subtle and skilled affair of piano, double bass, percussion, glockenspiel and vocals.
You might know Morten Qvenild from Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, but it´s his In The Country project that shows where it´s at. Beautifully crafted, piano-driven jazz with a hint of prog, pop, blues and country, of course.