“Conspiracy” is the name of both Terje Rypdal’s excellent new album and his new band. It’s the most straightforward thing the eclectic electric guitarist has done in decades, after a string of projects featuring big bands, symphonies, vocal ensembles, and electronics. Here the septuagenarian teams with three fellow Norwegians—keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, electric bassist Endre Hareide Hallre, and drummer Pål Thowsen—for a 35-minute, six-song set that recalls his early fusion work and elevates mood above melody.
Rypdal’s signature tone and style, which favor atmospherics and sustained notes, emerge immediately on the soaring opener, “As If the Ghost … Was Me!?” Thowsen’s cymbals churn and Hallre’s bass thrums beneath Rypdal’s searing lines as the intensity increases. Ambient, droning keyboards are a primary piece of the backdrop, most notably on “What Was I Thinking” and “Dawn,” the latter of which sounds like it came out of a David Lynch film. Rypdal doesn’t take all the leads: Hallre plays the melody of “By His Lonesome,” and Storløkken’s organ is the featured instrument on the ethereal “Baby Beautiful.” The group rocks out exactly once, on the title track, with its pounding drums, bone-rattling bass, and blistering, whammy-bar-heavy guitar work. If only Conspiracy were twice as long.