Outstairs is not music for the impatient. Like so many ECM releases, it values the silence between the notes as much as the music itself, but here that silence is often exaggerated to the point that you might find yourself checking your stereo to ensure that it hasn’t shut off. The first such instance occurs only seconds into the opening track, “Stille Rock”: Wallumrød plays three chords on piano, follows them with an equal duration of dead air, plays two more chords, there’s more dead air, and only after three such funereal minutes does drummer and chief collaborator Per Oddvar Johansen finally join him. The pace never does accelerate, and the silence returns every so often, even as the other musicians slowly make their presence known. The music feels like a visitation, a succession of sounds that peek in and then skitter away.
Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.