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November 2001

Trygve Seim
Different Rivers
ECM Records

Trygve Seim is a Norwegian composer/tenor and soprano saxman, and this album, his first, is a sort of new-age jazz, mostly composed, with ultraslow tempos and almost immobile lines. That is, Seim's octet plays a phrase, and repeats the phrase, and repeats the phrase, and repeats the phrase, and so on; some pieces also have contrapuntal lines with minute developments, with tiny developments, with small developments, and so on. These phrases (they don't add up to melodies) are in equal lengths, long note values, usually in triadic harmonies and regular cadences; dynamic levels range from p to ppp. The effect is comforting, reassuring-relentlessly comforting, oppressively reassuring, a luxurious version of the water-drip torture.

Two tracks have a little more vitality. The title piece has ongoing instrumental recombinations, while "The Aftermath/African Sunrise" has unresolved dissonances, two drummers quietly playing a fast tempo, and a tenor solo with fast arpeggios and climactic howls. Several tracks emphasize the ECM engineer's peculiar skills, especially three dreary duets by stiff-reed sax and trumpophone (it sounds like a baritone flugelhorn) with heavy overtones of breath in the mouthpieces and horns. The longest track (nine minutes) is "Breathe," in which the octet repeats an organ chord-only one chord-that echoes during long rests, while a reader reads a new-age poem ("breathe, and be one with the air you breathe") with no echo chamber at all. Anyway, most of the time, the lack of event on this CD makes you want to scream.

Originally published in November 2001
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