Opsvik & Jennings
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Opsvik & Jennings


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The best kept secret in music


"Opsvik & Jennings - Pitchfork"

As with so many acts on the Rune Grammofon roster, the duo of Eivind Opsvik and Aaron Jennings construct their work directly on the faultlines that separate each musical genre from the next. Their instrumental tides incorporate stray elements of folk, jazz, and country with an impressively gentle touch, as the two musicians invisibly blend acoustic instruments with subtle software effects. With the aid of such evocative titles as "The Last Country Village" and "Lorinda Sea", the liminal music on Commuter Anthems has melancholic, faintly nostalgic tug, as though absorbed in the quiet conflict between the present and the idealized thoughts of a mythic, pastoral history.

Opsvik & Jennings-- New Yorkers by way, respectively, of Oslo and Oklahoma-- might sound like a name better suited to a law firm or a chiropractic clinic, and at points on Commuter Anthems they can perhaps seem rather too business-like in their approach. The two musicians have each been active in a variety of projects, largely grounded in jazz and experimental pop. On Commuter Anthems, their second album overall and their first on Rune Grammofon, the duo make a host of unlikely instrumental choices, joining melodic fragments of banjo and lap steel to jazz string bass and tranquil laptop figures. To their credit, Opsvik & Jennings take care throughout to de-emphasize their composing and recording process, and they partner their individual styles so seamlessly that the album can often seem as a dream-wave transmitted directly from a single conjoined imagination.

True to its title, Commuter Anthems is filled with exactly the sort of distant, half-remembered melodic fragments that one might envision while nodding off on the evening train. "The Last Country Village" builds up from a base of acoustic guitar and tuned percussion to warm swells of lap steel, patiently chasing a sleepy melody that remains just tantalizingly out of reach. Wordless bah-dah-dah vocals decorate "Port Authority" and the title track, further lending to their ethereal daydream character. On such jazzier tracks as the lengthy "I'll Scrounge Along", the duo can call to mind the languid rumble of early Tortoise, while Jennings' contributions on guitar and a variety of string instruments echo some of Bill Frisell's cross-genre explorations.

As the album progresses, Opsvik & Jennings allow themselves extra enough driving time for a couple fruitful side trips. On the hypnotic "Ways" the duo take a break from forward momentum altogether, settling into one of the album's richest melodies with banjo and theremin for an idyllic respite amidst the tempered commotion. Here, as on the lyric "Lorinda Sea", the additions of banjo, pedal steel, and/or trumpet cast a wistful, rural glow that sways and hovers like pollen on a lingering summer breeze, only to soon be scattered by a shuffled rhythm or electronic edit. Throughout the length of Commuter Anthems, one can hardly help but wish that Opsvik & Jennings had chosen to push these songs a little further, and take their melodies grander, or allowed their stylistic leaps to retain more of their natural dissonance. Lovely though the album is, the duo appear content to treat their Anthems with an air of light detachment, almost as if too much extra attention or creative interference might cause these fragile creations to vanish off into the twilight as suddenly as they've arrived.

-Matthew Murphy, June 20, 2007

- Pitchfork Media

"Opsvik & Jennings - The Wire"

Eivind Opsvik and Aaron Jennings are young New York Musicians active in a raft of projects, including Hari Honzu, a quartet playing Ornette Coleman-inspired pop. Commuter Anthems, however, is a gentle ramble through a perkier kind of David Grubbs territory. With plenty of acoustic instruments and cunning software effects, it’s a likable album with a bucolic tinge. If it were a commute it would be a ride through sunlit meadows.
On “Silverlake”, banjo and lap steel catch at fragments of sleepy melody, while a pixie gamelan tinkles in the background, before modulating into water sploshes and soft nylon guitar. “Commuter Anthems” has a theremin and a brass section in lurching time signatures. The writing here is celebratory and, well, anthemic, with a whiff of Sufjan Stevens. “Wrong Place Right Time” uses string bass and harmonium to mosey through dark passages, but here too the sun finally emerges from clouds with a heartwarming sequence of chords. The broad range of instrumentation combined with laptop work recalls the excellent Swedish trio Tape.
Initial reservations that Opsvik & Jennings display cleverness rather than heart are dispelled with repeated listening. Their vision is odd, combining jazz and pop, melody and whimsy with a dollop of kitsch, but it is done with such delicacy and tenderness that this is an album one could fall in love with. On later tracks, they even start to let their hair down: “I’ll Scrounge Along” is harmonium partying with string bass. Who could ask for more? CLIVE BELL
- The Wire

"Opsvik & Jennings - All Music"

The second full CD from this often intriguing duo, Commuter Anthems finds the combination of Aaron Jennings and Eivind Opsvik creating an understatedly captivating album that might be the best late sixties Beach Boys tribute yet recorded. This might sound like this reduces Commuter Anthems to the realm of simply aping a sound but this isn't Elephant 6-style hero worship at play. Rather, the duo deftly suggest the sonic fantasias conjured up by Brian Wilson and his bandmates post-Pet Sounds, stripped of familiar vocal harmonies and uptempo deliveries in favor of bubbling arrangements and elegant, jazz-tinged breakdowns, creating a new and often strikingly beautiful approach. Certainly song titles like "Silverlake" and, in a way, "Port Authority" suggest an oceanfront atmosphere, and there's flecks of low-key wordless vocals adding to this at points, but Wilson never got quite as moodily funky as the latter turned out to be. The opening "The Last Country Village" starts things off on the right foot with its combination of demi-folk/country twang, twinkling percussion and sudden big bangs, a mélange in the best way. Meantime more modern touches keep the record firmly placed in its present time -- "Wrong Place Right Time" introduces a skipping record/glitch of sorts beat, while low orchestral tones and drones turning into a keyboard/woodwind fanfare, sounding a bit like Mercury Rev's melancholy majesty circa Deserter's Songs. The tension between new and old crops up to good effect elsewhere -- "Ways" has the lead string part almost feeling like a nostalgic throwback and yet there's something crumbling around the edges, pretty and weird, with plucked string sounds emphasizing the creepiness a bit more. Some songs are more okay enough mood pieces than anything else, like "The Pendler" and "Lorinda Sea," but this doesn't take away from the surprising impact of this album.
- All Music

"Opsvik & Jennings - CYCLIC DEFROST"

Commuter Anthems is cloven with effulgent elements pursued through minute variations, fashioning a detailed diorama such that listening to the work suggests the experience of actually being in the environment, of listening to it breathe, lay still and shift around. ‘Wrong Place Wrong Time’ uses some nuanced panning and delaying techniques to erect foreboding, airy and intriguing images of the sky at dusk. Later on, some quietly abrasive electronics tint the music with an unobtrusive delicacy while simultaneously heightening the atmosphere of aged resignation. More predominant, though, is the works loveably guileless arrangement and aura. Many pieces sprout into more quizzical terrain, while others abound with a rural, lazy feel which is quite transfixing. The title track, for one, is pulled along by what sounds like a pizzicato harp, shaded by the yawning and wailing of a trumpet and some slurry vocals. The piece is becoming in its purity and simplicity, yet its the post-production that affords it that extra dimension, that extra contour which really allures for its focus and confidence. It works much the same on ‘Lorinda Sea’, whose lopsided drum pulse and spidery guitar figures and linear horn patterns no doubt appeal, but whose being cut up, dropped out and rearranged in an adventurous, almost giddy manner affords it a sublime otherness. All of this reshuffling thereby compliments and accents the persuasive playing of the duo. Rather than merely waxing pastoral, a piece such as ‘Silverlake’ vibrates with glimmering detail and impassioned invention. The final few compositions even offer slightly atonal counterparts, where taut syncopated rhythms unfurl against a banjon-drum-theremin crunch. Asides from swimming through a summer evening with delicate ease, stylistically and technically, Commuter Anthems is a wholehearted success. - CYCLIC DEFROST

"Opsvik & Jennings - FOXY DIGITALIS"

10 out of 10
The combination of jazz, electronica, folk and post-rock structures might read as a standard description for much modern music, yet their marriage in the hands Opsvik & Jennings is anything but predictable. “Commuter Anthems” is a beautiful record. Eivind Opsvik hails from Oslo, Norway, and Aaron Jennings is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, however the pair has converged in New York. At moments sounding like a cross between The Books and Bohren & Der Club of Gore, and other times Victor Gama meets Four Tet, their largely instrumental music puts familiar pop devices and notable experimentations simultaneously into play without allowing either to dominate. This is Opsvik & Jennings’ second album, but their first for Rune Grammofon. It’s subtle and sunny production value is doggedly consistent, and houses an ongoing unveiling of succinct ideas. At times the mood may seem a little too constrained, but this lack of visceral energy is easily forgiven once the extent of ingenuity grows more apparent. The range of instrumentation is significant. Double bass and banjo are central, while the appearance of concertina, lap steel, subliminal software and theremin deliver unforeseen arrangement possibilities. When Opsvik & Jennings contribute vocals, it’s done with humming and soft scats that simply dispense another instrument of diverging texture. So too the guest trombone from Ben Gerstein, flute from Peter Opsvik and trumpet by Rich Johnson.The jazz that finds its way to the fore on songs such as “I’ll Scrounge Along” is in a more Hard Bop tradition than Free, and thankfully any moments of potential Ninja Tune-style nu jazz and nu groove are rigorously scuttled. A willingness to follow a narrative to wherever it might lead makes many of these songs tackle intricately winding paths, and it does credit to Opsvik & Jennings that they stay true to their ideas right to the end. “Commuter Anthems” can thus be considered a genuine description of the music held within. 10/10 - FOXY DIGITALIS

"Opsvik & Jennings - BBC"

Opsvik and Jennings from Oslo and Oklahoma respectively now make music in NYC. Commuter Anthems (on Norwegian label Rune Gramofon) is a perfectly titled collection of aural snip snaps and melody. The boys have interrogated the commute, that journey from one life to another where you aren’t really anywhere, and dissected the soundtrack, replaced it with mimicked sounds: strings being car horns; lap-top pops and shudders reminiscent of transit. Opsvik’s bass, drums, organ and theramin, bustle and spar with Jennings’ guitars, lap steel and banjo. And along that journey where you might consider your life there is surging melody and half sung almost-thoughts. The Norwegian jazz lineage is clear with echoes of Jaga Jazzist and Tape pinging around the corridors of these tunes, but it also sounds like the meeting of two different musical lives talking together over a long train ride. On ''Lorinda Sea'', a shift from stuttering trombone to tranquil lap steel keeps dialogue spinning out of the train and beyond into the countryside and up over cities. The good songs are plotted like mini thrillers and the record as a whole is populated with instrumental characters and motifs that show an impressive depth. ''The Last Country Village'' is music for sentimentalist robot children, while ''Ways'' suddenly plunges you into a depression era family drama played out by wind-up toys. There are plenty of surprises, the title track ''Commuter Anthems'' jerking through time signatures eventually collapses into a soft sofa, the one you dream of being in on the way to work. Its not all pleasant though, perhaps in an attempt at something a little more searching there is ''Scrounge Along'', but it comes off like a bad French take on Ill Communication-era Beastie Boys clamour and not as an interesting, different direction. It all seems light and simple enough but placing the sounds and the instruments and thinking about what they are doing there is a brilliant game, and one that will reward repeat listening. Not something you should tire of easily, this might well ease a particularly rough route in one morning.
Reviewer: Greg McLaren - BBC

"Opsvik & Jennings - DUSTED Reviews"

Good instrumental music communicates a vivid narrative by leaving the poetic details to the listener’s own conjuring. Too many modern instrumentalists weigh down their releases with mathematic complexities and the kind of Rick Wakeman-wannabe time signatures that make it seem like they’re trying to disguise that they don’t have a singer, instead of capitalizing on the freedom afforded by ditching one’s frontman. My judgment and predisposition have taught me that if you can deliver an amazing pop song with no lyrics, it’s quite likely that you’re Pell Mell. And if you can write sad and heartbreaking instrumental epics and have a violin player, you’re the Dirty Three. The second album by Opsvik & Jennings is neither of those things, but it is one of the more pleasing excursions into the realm of instrumental music that I’ve encountered in some time.The two New York musicians (by way of Oslo, Norway and Tulsa, OK) offer an impressive array of sophisticated but thoroughly approachable tracks that ultimately gather into a meaningful listen for fans of experimental glitch pop, warm electronics, and avant jazz manifestations. Although the title track, artwork, and limited notes don’t readily illuminate the impetus behind the commuter theme, the overall feel of the album could definitely translate to a computer model of what some futuristic and well-ordered traffic pattern might look like were it gazed upon from the heavens. Musical elements that don’t necessarily have a proven history together – like, say, pedal steel and “software” – can be found here changing lanes and merging with one another while demonstrating equal parts style and efficiency. Nothing sticks out too prominently, but all of the pieces are definitely there for a reason, and make themselves understood with satisfying intent. - DUSTED Reviews

"Opsvik & Jennings - E/I MAGAZINE"

With a disciplined and clearly deceptive sense of naïveté on full display, these 10 eccentric, jazzish, congenitally Conchordish pieces run through any number of disarmingly distinct instrumental combinations. The line-ups seem familiar, but like Penguin Café Orchestra, the combinations prove illusively unpredictable and still sensibly unexpected. Add some untrained sounding vocalizations, a catalog of atmospheres and intrusions to keep you guessing from minute-to-minute and still the music remains considerate enough to never really startle you, just nudge you along into a sunny, gently-edged tilt. Hard to consider too many comparisons—for some reason Koop and the less boisterous moments of Sakamoto’s jazzy tracks come to mind—but please excuse the comparison. At turns atypical and exquisite, the voicings here are profoundly well thought out: an electric guitar shifts from a simple, clangy amped crackle to a Fripp-smooth tweeness as the piece itself displays a profound compositional sympathy with the aural transitions. This consistently tight relationship between the compositional dynamics and nature of the instruments used is rarer than any of us should like to confess, and Opsvik & Jennings prove to have both the ear and the technique to articulate the deeper reaches of the way in which the inflections of an instrument benefit and contribute to the compositional and harmonic content, and vice versa. Because instead of the often invented voices of electronica—the instrumental voices here are familiar—they arrive with what Dickens might term “expectations” and so the combinations and recombinations trade smartly on the differences. In other reaches, the music also exhibits a casual and approachable air, with the presence of some found sounds and bits of the seemingly unrelated dropping in for a considered moment of contrast, an additional layer of warmth, or, appropriately, a sly and satisfied grin. (KL) • www.runegrammofon.com - E/I MAGAZINE

"Opsvik & Jennings - The New York Times"

New York Times Playlist by Ben Ratliff: The Heroic, the Hermetic, and the Honkey-tonk:

Opsvik & Jennings
Here’s a report from the era of the tiny statement in jazz, “Commuter Anthems” (Rune Grammofon), the second album from the duo of Eivind Opsvik and Aaron Jennings. Mr. Opsvik is an excellent young Norwegian jazz bassist who has been playing in New York since 1998, and Mr. Jennings is a more all-over-the-place kind of musician. They make small, shrewd and catchy songs, using Americana signifiers like banjo and lap-steel guitar alongside the gurgle and crunch of laptop electronics. They’re tidy and sweet, calling attention to their design, but they don’t want to be understood too easily. - THE NEW YORK TIMES


Floyel Files (NCM Records) 2005
Commuter Anthems(Rune Grammofon) 2007
Rufs (compilation cd) 2006, Fenetrê Records
Rune Grammofon compilation (coming soon on Rune Grammofon)


Feeling a bit camera shy


If you’ve ever wondered what it would sound like if a bassist/tunesmith from Norway teamed up with a guitarist/software enthusiast from Oklahoma to make music - well, here it is

Opsvik & Jennings, who are now based in New York, released their first cd "Fløyel Files" on the Brooklyn record label NCM East. They’ve gone in a new direction for their second release “Commuter Anthems” on Rune Grammofon; these two long time collaborators have built a sound reminiscent of a dreamy experimental pop orchestra.

Guitars, double bass, concertina, pump organ, lap steel, banjo, and various recording techniques and software manipulations creates a musical story that’s both filmatic and folky.

---press quotes---

"They’re tidy and sweet, calling attention to their design, but they don’t want to be understood too easily" -The New York Times

".. songs are plotted like mini thrillers and the record as a whole is populated with instrumental characters and motifs that show an impressive depth." -BBC

"an understatedly captivating album that might be the best late sixties Beach Boys tribute yet recorded." -All Music

"..it is done with such delicacy and tenderness that this is an album one could fall in love with" -the WIRE

"..Commuter Anthems takes those cherished sounds and distils them into perfectly formed instalments." -Plan B

" “Commuter Anthems” is a beautiful record" 10 out of 10 -Foxy Digitalis

"all of the pieces are definitely there for a reason, and make themselves understood with satisfying intent" -Dusted

"..they reveal melodies every bit as catchy as those penned by indie rock heavy weights like Tortoise and the Sea & Cake" -All About Jazz